If you believe Ted Rueter, New Haven is a city under siege.
The attackers are a creative bunch, employing such diverse tools as the motorcycle, the leaf-blower and, of course, the dreaded boom car.
Rueter, a political science professor at Tulane University, is the director of Noise Free America, a lobbying group opposing noise pollution. This month, the group gave New Haven its monthly Noisy Dozen award, recognizing it for having one of the worst noise pollution problems in the country.
Boom cars, for the uninitiated, are cars with souped-up stereo systems designed to blast decibel after decibel of music into quiet neighborhoods.
“Boom cars are really instruments of acoustic terrorism,” Rueter said. “There’s no defense against acoustic terrorism.”
New Haven was selected for the award, Rueter said, after his group received three complaints from angry New Haven residents. Noise Free America then found a number of editorials in the New Haven Register complaining about noise in the city.
“These awards are not given lightly,” said Tom Swick, the contact for the group’s Connecticut chapter. “These awards are given after long periods of trying to get things done and facing opposition from police and from politicians.”
Jim Foye, director of public information for the city of New Haven, said he had heard few complaints about noise problems in New Haven and thought the situation was blown out of proportion by Noise Free America.
“As a city we do our best to control our noise,” Foye said. “But of course it is a city with many diverse people and many college students and so we’re going to have some fun and make some noise.”
Noise Free America has about 500 members divided among 30 chapters in 20 states, Rueter said. Swick said he only joined the group a few months ago. The movement to control noise still draws snickers, he said, but it is rising in acceptance.
“I guess I have been a closet noise person for years,” Swick said. “The anti-noise movement is probably the anti-smoking movement of the future.”
Foye, however, challenged the group’s claims and criticized their press release for its tone, content and spelling. The statement refers several times to the dismissive attitude of New Haven Mayor John Destafano [sic].
“[The press release] is funny,” Foye said. “Hopefully they’ll spell the mayor’s name right the next time.”
Rueter said New Haven should adopt noise policies similar to Chicago. In Chicago, he said, if a police officer can hear a car stereo clearly from 75 ft. away, the police can impound the car and fine the driver.
The group’s Web site lists the other winners of the “Noisy Dozen” award, under titles such as “Bloomington, Indiana: Noise ‘R’ Us” and “MTX and Alpine Audio: Weapons of Mass Destruction.”
Rueter said excessive noise contributes to many health disorders, including chronic fatigue syndrome and hearing loss.