Being the Noisy Neighbor

So your neighbors said you are too loud. What should you do when you’re the one making the noise?

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Noisy neighbors is part of New York City living. And let’s face it - some of us with small children are the ones responsible for making the noise. With a toddler it feels like it’s almost an impossibility to keep them quiet and considerate.  What can one do to minimize noise while balancing what is realistic?

 As one parent writes:

 

"We are having a very difficult situation with our neighbor that lives downstairs. He has been complaining about our son (now 4 years old) running in the apt from the very first day we moved in last June. I tried everything whit my son, but you just can't keep a toddler from running every now and then, it’s just the way they are.
I just refuse to be yelling at him all the time since, as a toddler parent, I do for a lot of different reasons. I don't really know how to handle this anymore and I am afraid that this situation is going to lead us to get kicked out at the end of our lease, of course for reasons that are not apparently related with kids...
He has been living in the building for more than 10 years and I guess he must be closer to the landlord than us and of course he doesn't have kids.
Any advice on how to handle this?"

 

Reponses

 

Carpeting makes a difference:

“Do you have carpets on your floors? We've found that this can make a huge difference when neighbors above us have had young children. If you already do, perhaps some sort of padding underneath will help as well.”

“You may have to shell out some money for more carpets/rugs.   I believe there's a city ordinance that requires 75 percent or something of a dwelling to have floor coverings.”

 

Install better flooring and insulation:

“Last fall we put in new subfloors and floors in our kitchen, dining room, and living room, the whole front of our apartment -- not because of noise, but because they were old and beaten up.  But we decided to have insulation rolled in between the joists while the subfloors were pulled up, to add some soundproofing between our apartment and the one downstairs.  There also was a layer of something called QuietWalk that went down between the subfloor and the new floor.  A few weeks after the work was done, we asked our neighbors (the nice ones, by this time) if they had noticed any reduction in sound.  No, they said (nicely).  So, y'know, these old buildings just have terrible acoustics in their bones, and there's only so much you can do.”

 

Establish “quiet hours” with your neighbor:

“If your neighbor is rational - try to come to an agreement with him on quiet hours.  You could say something along the lines of, I understand that it's noisy for you, and we're doing our best, but you have to understand that it's nigh impossible to get a small child to walk lightly.  You can lay out something like, no running before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m., something like that.  That won't be easy for you but you may just have to do it.  What's the layout of the apartment?  If the bedrooms are in back, for example, and he rises later than your son, you may have to keep your son in the front of the apartment during the agreed-upon quiet hours.  Get into that level of detail, demonstrate that you understand his complaint and really are trying.  If his position is to never, ever hear noise, then you'll simply tell him you can't work with that. 

“Arrange a meeting with you, your neighbor and the building owner/super. Since you've already put down rugs and mats, the goal will be to establish quiet hours. Maybe something like no push toys or loud playing before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m., or whatever. Between those hours, however, you are free to move around and get on with your day. If she insists on all-day quiet, you'll know you're not dealing with a reasonable person.”

 

Remember to stay nice and courteous, it will make a difference:

“If possible, be as friendly as you can.  It's easy to hate someone you don't know, harder when they become real.  Alas, this didn't work with our former neighbor, but it's worth a shot.  In our previous apartment, we lived beneath one-year-old twins, and we heard them running around all the time.  It wasn't great, but we became (and remain) friends with the family, who are wonderful, and it really did make it more bearable.”

 

Keep records of your attempts to deal with the problem:

Keep track of your attempts to deal with the problem, in case he takes you to court (as our former neighbor threatened to do). 

 

Communication and maturity is important:

“I have been on both sides of this, having kids upstairs and with my downstairs neighbors when my kids were young. I think communication is important. We covered our fifty foot hallway and other parts of our apartment in ghastly foam tiles. We bought carpets and padded them as much as possible.
The main thing though is that we were mature about it. We took the complaint seriously. We took steps to improve things and let our neighbor (who was also our landlord) see what we were doing. We explained that we couldn't keep the kids silent but we would do whatever we could to minimize the noise. We told him to call us if it ever got to be too much. We emphasized and he agreed that it gets easier as the get older and it did.
I think being reasonable and listening and making an effort goes a long way with neighbors. It's also an idea to let your landlord know (unless if course it's a corporation) that you are taking reasonable steps.   As it happens, it also doesn't hurt for kids to learn to be considerate of other people, even ones they can't see.
In the end we had a great relationship with our neighbor. But that's life in the big city.”

 

Teach your child to be quiet as often as you can:

“I do think it's worth trying to teach kids not to thump around inside, or at least not so much.  Have I been successful in this?  Not in the least, but I'm going to keep at it.  The fact is that we're raising kids in vertical dwellings, so being conscious of noise and nearby neighbors is just something they're going to have to become aware of, as a part of living in their environment - just as, say, kids in Florida are taught what to do if they encounter an alligator.”

 

Assess whether your neighbor is harassing you:

 “We put down heavy wool rugs all over our apartment, took our kids out as much as possible (even when the weather was miserable). We explained to them that we are not intentionally or maliciously creating noise. This was not enough for them, and so of course they called the police TWICE. The cops came both times. When they saw my children(infant-4yrs old) and we had carpeting, they told me to ignore our neighbors the best we can and if we wanted to file a harassment charge against them. Each time the cops would go downstairs and talk to them. We told our neighbors about filing harassment against them, and they finally stopped. Now they are somewhat polite to us when we see each other.”

 

If all else fails:

“If that doesn't work. I would get a lawyer, because you are being harassed. I don't have a lawyer to recommend -- maybe someone on the list can suggest someone -- but find someone, have them send her a letter saying that you're going to sue her for harassment, and see what happens. Hopefully this doesn't have to cost a ton in legal fees. It might be good if she DOES call the cops. Interesting to see just how seriously an NYPD officer is going to take a complaint about an 11-month-old's noise. I bet the cruisers will just come racing right over.”

 

See also:

 

NYC.gov regulations of a Noisy Neighbor

A Guide to NYC Noise Code (from NYC.gov)

 

More on Park Slope Parents:

Tips for Dealing With a Noisy Neighbor

Recommendations for carpets and flooring services