Are Roosevelt Islanders Immune?

The Day Ben Kallos Got Me Thinking About NOISE!

Peter McCarthy

About the racket in the UES part of his domain, City Council Member Ben Kallos told the New York Times, “We need to take this problem seriously — take it head on without excuses — and give every New Yorker the peace and quiet they need.”

Well, we're lucky to escape that trouble here in our own little burg, I thought. Then, a helicopter clattered down the East River, rattling windows from the Octagon to Cornell Tech.

A phalanx of operators tackles the challenge of a threatening pile of leaves.
A phalanx of operators tackles the challenge of a threatening pile of leaves.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons: Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License

We may not get the worst of it here on Roosevelt Island, but I'm not so sure. Our disruptions may not be as continuous, but let's not discount the nerve-shattering impact of abruptness.

I remember the first time I was alerted to the unbroken waves of rumbling pushed between residential buildings here, overflowing from Manhattan's bigger island.

It was before six in the morning when I tiptoed downstairs for my morning run, a headset playing music in my ears for the first time.

The Grateful Dead, I think.

But something happened.

As soon as I opened the door to take my first, stiff jog up Main Street, the music disappeared. Jerry Garcia's deft finger work on lead guitar was banished by the overwhelming roar thrown at us from the commotion of traffic and business across the water.

No, I'm not forgetting the apocalyptic thunder of high pressure releases blasting out of Big Allis on the Queens side of the Island. Devastating as that can be, it does have the distinction of being periodic.

But the noise from the west is unceasing and occasionally varied by outbursts from motorcycle mufflers, emergency vehicles and screeching tires ahead of a metal-twisting crash, an especially disturbing wakeup call heard not long after the city bars close.

Blame Your Neighbors

Rightfully, the FDR takes credit for the bulk of noise pollution on Roosevelt Island. We get a double hit, the noise itself tailed across the water by its echo from the reinforced walls protecting Upper East Side neighborhoods.

But what about the preventable kind?

I have a favorite - maybe not the best word - detestable assault on our local peace and quiet:

GAS-POWERED LEAF BLOWERS

A pre-emptive strike
A pre-emptive strike
Credit: Wikimedia Commons: Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License

All in caps because there really is no more honest way to describe these detestable insults on civilization.

Communities across the country, including as nearby as Irvington (home of Washington) in Westchester County, have begun to ban them.

So, why exactly, RIOC, Manhattan Park and Hudson-Related, are LEAF BLOWERS necessary in May?

Do we need to capture and destroy the first hint of autumn, just two seasons away?

While it's easy to applaud Manhattan Park's decision to end the Saturday morning symphony of LEAF BLOWERS that ended dreams abruptly for six months each year, the assault on the senses continues. The timing has simply changed.

The first sign of a leaf in spring and Bingo! It's time to fire up the LEAF BLOWERS.

Still, to be honest, RIOC takes the cake with its devotion to LEAF BLOWERS so complete that periodically, we're forced to choke on the dust while they're used in teams of operators charged with clearing the Promenade of... anything.

The ultimate insult landed when one of my worst dreams came true: a RIDING GAS-POWERED LEAF BLOWER thundering through the lawn south of Rivercross.

And lest we forget, the noxious nuisance of LEAF BLOWERS is augmented by the gift of stinking, partially combusted gasoline.

Lesser Lights

Usually, I enjoy watching tugboats, the mighty little vessels that protect and guide giants in our waterways. But then, one where the technology of mufflers has not intruded thunders up the river.

That's nothing, of course, compared to the party boats sharing floating festivities with we shore-bound sleepers at 2:00 a.m. The music is a grade or two below Sinatra or Viennese Waltzes, probably geared for brains saturated with a variety of intoxicants, not for sleepers.

And you've gotta love the jet skis racing town the river in groups of three or four and the heavy trucks with their beds crashing at every bump along a Main Street never designed to sustain anything like the traffic it gets.

When a big truck takes a trip up or down the helix, it takes an intensity of faith close to that attributed to saints to not expect the whole thing to come crashing down.

On the Plus Side

Among our blessings in Manhattan Park are a collection of the most considerate neighbors you're likely to find anywhere.

With more than twenty floors of balconies surrounding us, it's genuinely rare to be disturbed by music, loud voices or the smell of pot that seems universal all over the city.

I believe the rest of Roosevelt Island is largely like that. We may have our contentious political issues, but as apolitical neighbors, we are as considerate of each other as any community anywhere is likely to be.

Not perfect, but damn good.

Now, if we can just do something about the damned GAS-POWERED LEAF BLOWERS.

The Day Ben Kallos Got Me Thinking About NOISE!

Roosevelt Island on a day without LEAF BLOWERS. Queensboro Bridge with Gulls by Deborah Julian Fine Art ($19.99)