Can I file noise complaint? — Brooklynian

Can I file noise complaint?

I have a neighbor who has a tarp set up in his back yard (for years now) and (seemingly) used for sun/rain protection. Every time it's windy the tarp becomes very loud - and this is with the windows closed. Can I file a noise complaint? And if so, is this through 311?


  • Have you spoken to your neighbor about it?
  • No, I haven't. Why should I really? Perhaps I shouldn't have said neighbor. It's an adjacent property and I don't know this person. I'm not going to confront someone that I don't know about a complaint that might make them angry and vindictive. It's not like they don't know that the tarp is incredibly noisy when it's windy.
  • edited March 2014
    That's a fair point, but it's also unfair to your neighbor if you start out by filing a 311 report that could result in a non-emergency police visit. That also might theoretically take police off the streets where their services might be more essential. 

    How about sending them a polite letter with suggestions on how to resolve the issue (for example better secure the tarp)? Presumably it wouldn't be hard to get their street address.
  • I would also suggest talking to your neighbor first, before filing a noise complaint. They may know that the tarp is noisy, but they may not know it's bothering anyone.
  • Is there anything about the property that makes you feel unsafe? E.g. lots of discarded dime bags, booze bottles? Weird people milling about? If not go talk to the guy!
  • Brooklynian - I didn't know that 311 was such a serious matter. I'll take your suggestion and see if I can determine his address and mail him/her an anonymous letter. They are around the corner on another street but the back of their building faces the side/back of my building - so a little bit of investigation. If the tarp doesn't come down in 30 days, then I'll file the complaint.

    So thanks - and thanks to the others that replied. Much appreciated.


  • Mike, they are your neighbors. Walk out in the back yard when it warms up and if you see them say something over the fence. If not, ask one of your other neighbors on either side of you if they know the people and could tell you which home it is or make an introduction. You're all living in close quarters. To make it an issue for the police or city government should only come if you've tried to work it out informally and have been unsucessful.
  • My response was pretty much the same as everyone else's.  Try and work it out first and then get the city involved.   Good luck.
  • Thanks for all the responses and suggestions. The neighbors backyard faces the side of my building so there isn't the opportunity to have an over the fence hello. I could holler out the window but I've never seen anyone back there ever.

    I will try to determine the address and mail a letter.
  • A letter and/or hollering isn't the way to go. Talk to them.

    One of your neighbors might know them already.

    ....part of why I advise you to use the city as a last resort is that the city isn't very effective in responding to, or resolving such complaints.

    Even if they wanted to help you stop the noise, they'd have to hear it. It might not be windy if/when they show up to investigate.
  • I think there are a lot of hot button issues in a community. Noise complaints are one of them and people tend to be either wholeheartedly for talking with neighbors or for calling 311. An anon letter seems to be a good middle ground for you if your circumstances and your unique situation & nabe dynamic make you uncomfortable/scared/hesitant to approach the neighbor due to the conflict that you fear may arise. Only you can decide if that is a legitimate concern or not. I wish you the best and hope you report back on how it went!
  • Agree w/mamacita.  Ideally you talk directly, unless there are reasons not to.  In order, I'd go this route:

    1. In-person friendly convo.  A few times (sometimes people are stuck in their ways or busy and forget)
    2. A friendly letter with your name/number.  It's easier to ignore an anonymous person, and the letter could be seen as passive/aggressive.  (obviously, dont need to list your address if youre afraid)
    3. A letter on behalf of you and other neighbors who think its an issue (power in numbers)
    4.  A stern letter giving them some time notice to remedy the issue, before you call 311.
    5.  Calling 311

    If its done in a way that makes the person feel offended that his/her neighbors are being underhanded or passive aggressive, they may say 'effit' and start blasting loud music in the backyard to retaliate.  If they're trying to keep something covered, you can offer to help them find a solution to better tie-down/secure the tarp.  Also, maybe a large heavy flapping tarp is a safety hazard you can inform them about (or 311). 
  • Not to pile on you, Mike, but it really is a good idea to meet the problem head-on. 

    I did this management training for my job (that I was originally dreading) which was useful.  The teacher gave a great example of conflict resolution, which was actually a noise complaint in her apartment building in Brooklyn.  Not that I remember every element of the story but my main takeaways were:

    -Your goal should be to fix the problem as quickly and effectively as possible (which is why 311 isn't going to work well.. there is no way that the city will see this as a priority and might not even have any recourse if they did)
    -Don't be hostile (I think you've got this covered :)  )
    -Expect your neighbor to potentially be somewhat hostile/defensive (though not as much as if he gets a visit from the city or an anonymous letter, now matter how good the intent) but you can probably change that quickly with the next step
    -Be understanding and collaborative.  Maybe they have been meaning to fix it.  Maybe you could offer to help them install a new tarp.  Maybe you could contribute a few bucks towards buying a new tarp.  Maybe there is a problem that they have been having that you could assist them to solve  (Bill Withers agrees)

    Essentially, what value do you associate with being able to sleep or work in your apartment in peace. 

    Good luck! 
  • Haha, this subject seems to be bringing out the HR/Conflict Resolutionist in all of us (as well as use of bulleted lists). 
  • Bullet ALL the things!
  • Ok, let me see if I can talk with my neighbor. I'll be sure to provide an update. Thanks to all for the suggestions.

This discussion has been closed.