Noise is off

Life in the loud lane: Neighbors sound off on new parkway noise
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The city hopes a new noise barrier will silence complaints from Bergen Beachers near the Belt Parkway two years after a bridge reconstruction project tore down the line of trees serving as a natural muffler — but locals doubt the flimsy fence will make a difference.

The Department of Transportation is set to install a chain-link fence with noise-muffling slats between the Belt Parkway and McGuire Fields, in the hope of providing some relief for neighbors whose lives have been disrupted by the roar of traffic. The upcoming noise barrier is a welcome alternative to the empty space currently between the Beltway and the park, but some are skeptical of the barrier’s sound-blocking abilities.

“Their proposal is slats in the fences, and that’s only going to stop the visual problem, not the sound problem,” said Bergen Beach resident Kevin Hiltunen. “They’re insulting the intelligence of the community.”

The city is installing the barrier at the request of the local councilman, whose office has been inundated with complaints and calls for action by Hiltunen and others in the area. Maisel said that whether locals are satisfied or not, the fence is likely the only relief the city will provide.

“I asked on behalf of my constituents,” said Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park). “We’re trying. It’ll have to do, because they’re not going to do anything else.”

But Maisel said that the barrier’s usefulness will be evaluated once it has been installed.

“We’ll see whether or not this works,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, maybe we’ll do something else.”

The councilman said the barrier is made of a material intended to absorb some of the noise coming off the Beltway, and it was offered by the Department of Transportation as a cost-effective solution to the problem. He expects it to go up by the end of the month.

Valentino Buono, who lives on Bergen Avenue and pushed for a new noise barrier said the city has already begun constructing the slatted chain-link fence along the Mill Basin Bridge, but he doesn’t think it will do much good.

“It’s not going to do anything. It’s not a noise barrier in any way,” he said. “I’m convinced it’s not going to help with the sound.”

Locals particularly resent the fact that it took the city two years to provide a barrier of any kind. Last year, the city said that the Parks Department would plant $9 million worth of saplings between the Belt Parkway and McGuire Fields to create a natural sound barrier — eventually.

But at the time, Hiltunen pointed out that it would take far too long for the saplings to grow large enough to muffle the noise.

“I’ll be six feet under by the time those trees come to full growth,” he said.

One local who spends a lot of time at the park now abutting the parkway said the noise is an unfair imposition on the community.

“The noise erupted in this quiet, hardworking community who want to live peacefully,” said Paul Curiale, administrator of the Bergen Beach Youth Organization, which is based at McGuire Fields on the front lines of the bombastic bombardment. “It creates a sound that is like a train coming through the front of these peoples’ homes.”

Still, Curiale remains cautiously optimistic about the barrier, and is convinced of the councilman’s sincere desire to address the community’s grievances.

“I know the Councilman cares about this endlessly,” he said. “I believe he has relayed this to the Parks Department and he has relayed it to the DOT.”

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.