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Columbia Spectator Staff

Honking horns echo across Midtown. Elevated trains clatter though Manhattanville. But the loudest part of New York City in the morning is a piece of the Upper West Side around 100th Street, according to a study conducted by Columbia researchers. The two-year project, Noise Map, tracked noise complaints to the city's 311 phone line and was commissioned in conjunction with a Guggenheim Museum project called Stillspotting NYC, which aimed to find the "still spots" of the city. Laura Kurgan, director of the spatial information design lab at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and coauthor of the study, said it was conducted in order to bring attention to the adverse effects of noise. "Medical and public health personnel are worried that noise can injure your hearing but the point was to think about what it means to quantify noise," she said. According to the Guggenheim website, 20 million adults and 10 million children in the United States suffer from "noise-induced hearing loss." Noise Map divides the city into a grid of pixels that shows noise complaints by block. Kurgan said the intent of the project was to enable anyone to browse the data in any neighborhood across the city. A data studies group comprising 15 graduate students from the architecture, urban design, and urban planning programs analyzed the complaints and found that two of the most common words mentioned during 311 phone calls were "music" and "ice cream trucks." But local residents said that construction and traffic were the loudest sounds around 100th Street on Friday morning. "Morning, noon, and night—it may be the nosiest part of New York," said Carla Stockton, GS '73, as she took a quick break from walking her dog near 95th Street. Since moving to the area from Washington Heights four years ago, she said that "it seems like the noise has increased daily." Stockton, a writer who lives below Columbia student filmmakers and between people she described as loud music enthusiasts, said that the noise affects her ability to work. "I have a very difficult time holding onto a thought, so I have to go back and rewrite things that shouldn't have to be written," she said. Waiting for a bus near 96th Street, Eva Werbell had to raise her voice to be heard. "The garbage trucks are very loud and the construction is the same," she said. "You can see right now, the noise level is very high—all of the trucks going by." "You have to wait for the traffic to pass when you want to continue a conversation or have a cell phone conversation," said Jamila Pontonbragg, who was dropping off her two children at St. Michael's Church on 99th Street. "There's a lot of construction, also the police cars and the fire trucks going over there, that adds to it—there's a lot going on here." While the project was intended to create awareness of noise pollution, Upper West Siders and New Yorkers in general might need to become accustomed to the racket. "There is no such thing as a city without noise," Kurgan said. "It's life in the city." news@columbiaspectator.com

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