In a horrifying tale of neighborhood disturbances from December 2021, residents in Brooklyn were practically driven mad by a high-pitched, fan-like-chirping noise that no one could seem to pinpoint. And by the time they even got close to figuring it out, there were three city agencies, one incoming City Council member, numerous building supers, and people from several nearby residences as well as their own – involved. As we’ve discussed, in true New York fashion, there are nightmare neighbors in every borough.
The building was Cadman Towers at 101 Clark Street in Brooklyn Heights, and neighbors were going out of their minds trying to figure out where the annoying noise was coming from. The thing about it was, the sound was evasive. No matter where you thought it was coming from when you moved “towards” it, it seemed to fade and shift away – and this went on 24/7.
Now, this story made the news for a couple of reasons, but a big part was the scale of people who became involved. One resident wrote an email to The Eagle about the situation, then went on the Nextdoor app to see if anyone else in the neighborhood was noticing the sound. There, she found it was the “talk of the town”. Everyone had their own description and thoughts on where it was coming from.
The co-op north of Cadman Towers located at 75 Henry Street also made multiple complaints to the property manager at the Towers, Mary Egrie. But some of the residents at the Towers thought the co-op was the source. Egrie asked the building’s super, Julio Davila, to look into it. He found the co-op was not the source, but little else.
The neighbors had now formed a task force. 311 complaints were made but they could not locate the source either and closed the case. One neighbor convinced the police at the 84th Precinct to investigate the scaffolding at the Gristedes for the source of the noise.
The Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) took the complaints seriously, searching several buildings and ruling out MTA construction. They alerted public officials and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP dismissed the case when they, too, could not locate the source and stated the noise wasn’t loud enough to issue a citation, anyway. The assistant manager at the Towers thought they had it nailed down to the dormitory at NYU, but the super could not find a thing.
But it was the former Board President of Cadman Towers that had served for 16 years before stepping down to run for City Council, Toba Potosky, and his wife Ronni, who ultimately saved the day. Apparently, one of the residents had been on vacation for the past two weeks, and when Ronni went to check to see if the person was back, there was a noise coming from inside the apartment. Going inside, the couple discovered – a Bird-X Super 100. This is a pest repellent solution that emits sound waves in an annoyingly piercing sound. The resident, clueless, had set it before leaving on a trip – two weeks prior.
The Whistling Condo
First of all, keep in mind this story is from early 2021, and the issues have been resolved now. The property, a residential dubbed 5 River Park by developers but nicknamed the “screeching Cobble Hill condos” or the “whistling condos” was a mystery at first.
It is a Fortis Property Group development, and the building was being built for luxury condos. The neighbors around the construction were plagued by a shrieking sound emanating from the building when exposed to wind gusts coming off the nearby waterfront. People described it as not unlike the music played in the movie “Psycho” just before the knife comes down in the shower scene. Or witches screaming in the wind, when it blows at night. This noise was so loud, it could be heard for several blocks around – and was disturbing people a surprising distance away. But their nightmare was just beginning.
The Cobble Hill Association brought the issue up to Fortis at the monthly construction task force meeting with the developer, local elected officials, and city agencies. The developer hired an acoustic engineer, who determined the noise was coming from the balcony railings that climb into the skies on this building. Fortis Property Group attempted a stop-gap measure of putting zip-ties around the balustrades and wooden boards, but this temporary fix only lasted until the first strong gusts blew them apart. Neighbors all around the site of construction were constantly being littered with materials from the building like this wood. The workers would always come to clean up any messes and apologize, but thank God no one was injured. The CHA urged Fortis to find a more permanent solution.
The River Park development has been met with controversy, billed as a “whole new neighborhood within a neighborhood,” the development in its entirety spans from Hicks Street and Atlantic Avenue to Henry and Amity Streets. The project includes a 36-story skyscraper, two 15-story towers, a row of fancy townhouses, and a condo conversion of LICH’s old Polhemus building. But the construction site and workers on the site have not given citizens here much confidence so far.
Local politicians have written letters to the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Buildings, requesting of the agencies that they not sign off on a condo offering plan and certificate of occupancy, at least until the sound has been stopped and/or they agree in writing to maintain liability for stopping the wretched sound. These are the two remaining permits they need, so the actions requested would prevent them from closing on any units until they keep their end of the bargain. As far as we know, these issues were all eventually resolved.
City of Noise
The thing is, NYC and surrounding boroughs are urban areas where a huge concentration of people live, work, and play. With the population nearing 9 million people (8.85) in 2022 in NYC alone, the City is getting louder, and more noise complaints are being called in every day (as you can see below).
It’s inevitable, but still, it’s not an enjoyable part of living in NYC. Especially experiencing the kind of auditory challenges the people in these stories did! Thankfully these situations were worked out. But whenever you happen to be at home, please remember to be kind to those around you and keep the noise level down as much as possible. Sometimes all it takes is this small act of kindness and respect to promote a healthy, positive relationship with neighbors.
Rochelle Harris is a passionate writer originally from Phoenix, AZ. who credits her success to integrity and determination. She has a great sense of humor, loves music and her family, and writes fiction and poetry in her spare time. She is excited about the New York experience and lifestyle! Follow Rochelle on Twitter at @LinguisticAnRky or get in touch at [email protected]