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A Queens Resident Has Profited From Over 3,000 Noise Complaints. City Council Wants to Put a Stop to Him

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A Queens Resident Has Profited From Over 3,000 Noise Complaints. City Council Wants to Put a Stop to Him

Noise vigilante Dietmar Detering searched Times Square, one of the noisiest locations in New York City, for his next victim while carrying a small gray camera that he could fit in the palm of his hand.

There was Madame Tussauds, a wax museum, about which Detering claimed that until he intervened, “insane” screams were being heard at its entrance on Halloween. There was Applebee’s, which according to Detering began receiving complaints, had a speaker in front. After a protracted legal struggle, he claimed, the Margaritaville Resort ultimately took down its outside speakers that were playing Jimmy Buffett songs. Detering was proud of how many establishments had finally complied with the city’s noise ordinances, with the exception of Yard House, a restaurant that advertises that it serves “great food, classic rock, and the world’s largest selection of draft beer.” There was a speaker outside the entrance playing loud music.

“Right now, it’s down to Yard House,” the 52-year-old Queens resident stated.

We have to put an end to them.

According to Detering, “noise pollution spreads like cancer in neighborhoods.” “The neighboring store asks, ‘Why is that store receiving my walk-in customers?’ if one store gets away with it. That’s something I also want.

It was an ordinary evening for Detering, who claims in court filings that he records companies allegedly breaking noise ordinances that prohibit loud music from being projected into sidewalks for hundreds of hours per week. A 1972 statute allows citizens who file complaints about noise violations to act as prosecutors in administrative law court and provide the Department of Environmental Protection with proof of the violation if the city fails to look into the matter right away. The complainant will get at least 25% of the fine once it has been paid if the infraction is upheld.

The system appeared to function without significant criticism up until Detering and another vigilante started submitting unusually large amounts of noise reports.

During a committee meeting in October of the City Council, DEP Commissioner Angela Licata stated, “Citizen noise enforcement has been a significant problem for many businesses this year.” Businesses are paying hundreds of dollars in fines for relatively small breaches and receiving many violations at once from citizen enforcers without any prior warning. This is not fair, in our opinion.

According to the city, Detering has reported 3,883 noise complaints since the beginning of the year. A first-time offender business faces a minimum fine of $440.

Thus, Detering stands to earn a minimum of $213,565 if only half of the complaints he has filed since last year are upheld. It should be noted that this amount does not include the higher fines that are imposed on repeat noise violators.

Detering opted not to provide an estimate of his earnings. His attorney presents him as a selfless individual taking up the cause of “an environmental right guaranteed to all citizens” in court documents.

He has serious concerns about noise pollution’s detrimental effects on people’s health and safety, as well as the environment. Jack Lester, Detering’s lawyer, stated, “I believe he’s attempting to practice good citizenship.”

The opinions of the City Council members differ. They claim that Detering and other noise vigilantes are abusing the legislation and the absence of government employees to adequately look into noise infractions. According to Licata, Detering and another noise vigilante, Eric Eisenberg, are to blame for 90% of the approximately 6,000 citizen noise complaints that have been submitted since October. Eisenberg said he would not comment.

A bill sponsored by Queens Councilmember James Gennaro would limit the compensation paid to those who file noise complaints to $5 or $10. Additionally, it would stop Detering’s gravy train by capping the fines for the thousands of outstanding offenses at $50 for each firm.

According to Gennaro, the bill will prevent a small number of vigilantes from earning “hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.”

“Entrepreneurs are taking advantage of businesses, with their only concern being to enrich themselves through ill-gotten gains,” Gennaro stated. “I believe that the city has a duty to maintain a functional noise code, and we need to address this issue as it was exploited.”

On Wednesday, the Council will cast a vote on Gennaro’s bill.

Legal representative for the NYC Hospitality Alliance Robert Bookman told Gothamist the legislation change would shield eateries that are still getting over the pandemic.

Bookman stated, “[The businesses] are operating on very thin margins.” “They don’t have the time to attend a hearing for half a day, thousands of extra dollars to pay for absurd fines, or the resources to engage an attorney like us to fight these infractions. These are expenses that companies just cannot afford.

Not surprisingly, Detering has responded by suing the city, alleging that it is already moving to “undermine” the citizen noise complaint scheme.

According to the lawsuit, Detering is an environmental activist who is “deeply concerned about the damage caused to his health and that of his community by both air pollution and noise pollution.” The city health department discovered in a 2012 research that the average noise levels at numerous outdoor sites in the five boroughs surpass federal requirements to protect human health, therefore his expressed concern is not unwarranted.

According to the lawsuit, Detering spends “extensive time and money” on his craft; examples include paying out of pocket for repairs for his bicycle, a printer, and his video recorder, which he said cost $70. According to Detering, he calls for the majority of his Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays in order to wait for the hearings on his complaints to begin.

He claims in his lawsuit that any changes made to the citizen noise complaint scheme will lead to “a cacophony of noise rendering our congested city a stressful and health-impairing place to live.”

In the lawsuit, the city has not submitted a response. Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the Law Department, stated that the lawsuit will be examined.

Back in Times Square, Detering referred to the proposed legislation as “absurd” and claimed that it was an instance of the city caving in to private interests.

Pointing to the mayhem at the Crossroads of the World, he remarked, “The city wants to protect all this and turn everything into a noisy party zone where restaurants can make a lot of money.”

“Neither New Yorkers nor our guests are here to support the businesses. Put that in your mind.

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