How to file a noise complaint in NYC

Noise prevails in New York, the noisiest city in the United States. And New Yorkers complain about the noise. According to the 2018 report from the State Comptroller’s office, more than 1.5 million New Yorkers filed NYC311 noise complaints from 2010-2015 in relation to hard-partying neighbors and ear-piercing jets.

If you are reading this article you probably find yourself in a similar situation and are asking yourself: How do I file a complaint?

In 2007, as a part of its fight against noise pollution, New York City amended its noise ordinance to establish a seemingly efficient system for filing a noise complaint called NYC311.

311 does not replace 911. You should still call 911 for unusual noise that sounds like an emergency. Is someone calling for help? Did you hear a gunshot? A hostile crowd? These situations require an immediate police response, so 911 is the number to call.

NYC311 website

For noise complaints that are not 911 emergencies, you can call 311 to report a complaint. The operator will send your complaint to the appropriate department. Or you can file online: From the NYC311 website. Visit the website, click on NYC311, then click on Report Problems, then select Noise (if you don’t see this option, make sure to select the “All by category” filter at the top of the page), which will open the list of 22 noise violation categories. Choose the one that fits your problem for details on how to file a complaint.

Not all NYC311 complaints are treated the same

Complaints in the following categories are referred to the NYPD for action

  • Noise from a neighbor.
  • Noise from bars, clubs, or restaurants.
  • Noise from House of worship.
  • Noise from parks.
  • Noise from store business.
  • Noise from construction.
  • Noise from the street or sidewalk.
  • Noise for intercity or intrastate bus
  • Noise from fireworks.

You will be referred to the NYPD if your noise complaint is related to any of the above. After you complete the complaint form you will be advised, according to NYC policy, that the police will respond within 8 hours unless they are handling an emergency. Further, they will only act if the noise is continuing. If you made multiple complaints during the eight hours, they would treat those complaints as a single event, so it isn’t recommended to call non-stop, it will only congest the system and probably make their response time slower.

You may not be pleased with this policy if a noisy, unreasonable neighbor consistently shatters the solitude of your personal space with bad music. I sympathize. I once had an upstairs neighbor who marched in work boots and maxed out his TV sound while watching late-night talk shows. I suffered helplessly for several months until, magically, one night he was gone. You also may get help if your building has rules regulating noise. Check with your tenant association, manager, or building superintendent.

Residents with a noise dispute with a neighboring hospitality establishment, such as a restaurant or bar, may be able to resolve the dispute through a free mediation service called MEND NYC. Experienced third parties conduct the mediations. You may contact MEND through their website or directly at

MEND Mediation Service website

Complaints in these categories are referred to the Department of Environmental Protection or the regulating department for action

  • Noise from a dog or another animal.
  • Noise from a garbage truck.
  • Noise from ice cream truck.
  • Noise from lawn equipment.
  • Noise from a vehicle.
  • Noise from film or television production.
  • Manhole cover complaint.
  • Noise from an air conditioner or ventilation equipment.
  • Noise from a boat.
  • Noise from a factory.
  • Noise from wastewater treatment plant complaint.
  • Noise from a helicopter.
  • Noise from airplanes.

The individual web pages within the NYC311 portal contain a complaint template, information about how your complaint will be handled, and the identity of the reviewing department.

For example, if you think that overflying jets are louder than ever and you believe they are flying too low, you can click on “Noise from Airplane” and learn that you can file a noise complaint online or by phone with the Port Authority of NY and NJ, Airport, Noise Complaints,(800) 225-1071.

What happens after I file my complaint?

Some complaints may time out, for example, because the noise no longer exists when the police officers arrive. If your complaint is still alive, the NYPD or the appropriate department will investigate your allegations. For example, the police may measure the decibels in your neighbor’s apartment on their arrival. Or the Port Authority may discover that a plane descended below the prescribed altitude and the time shown on your complaint. If warranted, the investigating department will issue the equivalent of a citation to the defendant. 

The case could conclude either an agreement to pay a fine set by the fine schedule, a hearing (which you may be required to attend), or a dismissal if the department could not prove its case.

In addition, if you were injured by this noisy event, you may have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit.

NYC311 complaints alone will not win the fight against noise pollution

Let’s try to understand that noise pollution will increase as the population of the NYC metro area increases and construction continues. Ironically, as our aural health declines, we will need to talk louder to be heard.

By the somber numbers, the United Nations report “Action 2022, Noise, Blazes, and Mismatches” affirms the seriousness of the invisible threat of noise pollution to NYC in particular. According to the report, the City That Never Sleeps is the 10th noisiest in the world and the noisiest city in the Western Hemisphere, louder than, mega cities like Mexico City and Rio.

Let’s also try to understand that NCY will experience consequences. In fact, now 90% of its mass transit riders hear noise levels that exceed the recommended 70-decibel limit, according to the UN report.

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I'm W. Dan Bell, a semi-retired attorney living in North Carolina. I am married with two daughters. I enjoy traveling, through-hiking in the UK, writing, spending time with my family, and playing Texas Holdem.

One response to “How to file a noise complaint in NYC”

  1. […] neighboring New York City also has a relatively new and progressive ordinance against noise control, so I was not surprised to learn that New Jersey City had its own, which in some aspects looked […]

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