The school year may be over, but local elected officials still have the kids in their thoughts.
At the end of June, New York City Council Member and Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Protection Donovan Richards held a hearing on Intro 420, a bill that would mandate that noise from construction sites within 75 feet of any public or private school not exceed 45 decibels during school operating hours. The bill is sponsored by City Council Members Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal.
“As a parent and a former educator, I’m extremely concerned about loud construction projects occurring near schools throughout the city that jeopardize the safety and learning environments of our young students,” stated Levine. “Noise restrictions set by the School Construction Authority should be no different than what construction companies follow during the school day when they build close to schools. I’m pleased to join a broad coalition of health professionals, legal experts, elected officials, educators and parents across the city who are eager to move this critical measure forward.”
“Educators are competing with loud noises during their lessons, at the same time children are being distracted by the sounds,” added Rosenthal. “And as studies have shown and were presented in this hearing, this noise can negatively affect education and cognition.”
According to advocates for this legislation, since 2011, construction work has disrupted classroom instruction in at least 10 New York City public schools affecting more than 6,000 students. Currently, P.S. 75 and P.S. 163 on the Upper West Side and the highly regarded middle school, School of the Future, deal with loud noises caused by construction work next to their buildings.
Reports have noise levels approaching nearly 70 decibels on average at school area construction sites. Last year, approximately 800 individual schools were located both within 100 feet of a taxi lot containing a building and within 100 feet of a noise complaint during school hours.
Intro 420 has more than 20 co-sponsors, the support of parents and health and legal experts from the Department of Environmental Protection and Mt. Sinai Hospital. Dr. Lauren Zajac and Dr. Thomas Hays from Mt. Sinai cited a study in the medical journal the Lancet when warning about how noise levels affect children’s learning processes.
The study, which Zajac and Hays spoke about at the hearing, stated that “for every 5 decibel increase in ambient noise measured at the outside surfaces of school buildings, grade-school-aged children experienced a one to two month delay in reading comprehension.” The doctors also referenced the guidelines that the World Health Organization has regarding background noise in schools that are stricter than Intro 420.
“Our school children deserve our protection,” said Josh Kross, a P.S. 163 Task Force for a Safe School member and PTA co-president, in a statement. “Bill 420 helps protect them from intrusive noise. We expect Mayor [Bill] de Blasio to support this legislation, and we look forward to a formal statement from him endorsing it.”
Richards said that students have the right to learn in a noise-free environment.
“Construction companies should adhere to the same noise level restrictions as the School Construction Authority during school hours,” said Richards. “I’d like to thank Council Member Levine for introducing this legislation and advocating on behalf of our children and their health.”