Friday, 24 May 2024

New Yorkers make thousands of dollars off noise complaints: city pays them share of fines

New Yorkers make thousands of dollars off noise complaints: city pays them share of fines
Friday, 19 January 2024 06:17

The owners of several New York bars, restaurants and shops are outraged by an avalanche of fines due to the noise they allegedly create. But these fines are issued not by city employees, but by civilians, who ultimately receive 25-50% of the fines received by the city thanks to their vigilance, says NBC.

"It’s outrageous. We get calls from restaurant and bar owners and they get 4, 5, 6 abuse complaints from the same person before they even know about the first complaint,” said Andrew Righi, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “It’s thousands and thousands of dollars in fines, and these bounty hunters who write complaints are taking home some of those fines!”

Queens resident Dietmar Detering is one of the city’s most prolific noise complainers. He considers issuing fines his main occupation. He admits it’s fair to call him a "bounty hunter" and believes that New York City is becoming a quieter and more pleasant place thanks to his fines.

“We have so many violations with no enforcement,” Detering said. “Believe me, I want these businesses to stop giving me jobs.”

Detering declined to say how much money he made from a share of the fines.

Court records from the New York City Office of Administrative Procedure and Hearings show that as of April 30, Detering had filed 560 noise complaints. The total amount of fines imposed on these complaints exceeds $600 (000% of this amount is an impressive $25). But many of Detering’s complaints have not yet reached the court records.

In all, Detering filed more than 2000 noise complaints, according to city officials. There is at least one other New Yorker who filed even more complaints, but journalists could not contact him.

“We are being bombarded with fines. This is crazy,” said Patrick Callaghan, who runs The Elgin, a bar and restaurant on West 48th Street.

“These are not cheap violations,” said Teresa Burke-Sigler, who runs Pig N’ Whistle, also on West 48th Street. “I expect a minimum of $8 and a maximum of $000 in fines. That’s a lot of money for one business!"

In addition to the financial burden, business owners complain that fines are much higher in some areas than in others, depending on the presence of active citizens monitoring noise violations.

An analysis of city administrative court records shows that through April 30, Detering filed more than 300 complaints in Jackson Heights and the Crown. The number of his complaints about businesses in other areas is much lower.

Yarin Nadel accused Detering of discrimination, as he complains mainly about noise in Latin American areas.

But Detering does not agree with his accusations. In fact, he says, he is protecting minority communities, where language barriers can prevent people from complaining about the noise.

“They seem to be making it look like I’m persecuting Hispanics because I hate Hispanics. No, I love Hispanics! Detering said. “Hispanics are the people here on the street. They are victims."

The controversy surrounding such a system of issuing fines has become so intense that even the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), one of the agencies involved in reducing noise pollution, has called for changes to the law.

“New York City noise regulations were created to balance our reputation as a vibrant city that never sleeps and the needs of those who live and work here,” said Rohit Aggarwala, DEP Commissioner. “It is disappointing that a small group of people are abusing the system to terrorize local businesses for personal gain under the pretense of protecting others.”

The problem is largely due to confusion in the city’s noise limit regulations. It states that restaurants and shops are not allowed to play loud music "for promotional purposes or to attract attention."

Business owners say they play music quietly to create an atmosphere inside the establishment. But Detering and other vocal complainers argue that restaurants and shops use music to try to attract the attention of pedestrians on the sidewalk, which is already a violation.

Detering says the city’s ALJs seem to agree with him. He says that out of about 200 noise complaints that he has challenged in court, he has lost only 27 cases.

The DEP is now calling on the city council to remove the ambiguity in noise laws to make it clearer what types of music should be classified as violations.

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