A Fourth Avenue bar owner has built what he believes is a Great Wall of Silence, but neighbors say that so far, the wall is as porous as the fabled Maginot Line.
Longtime residents near the 4th Avenue Pub, which is between Bergen Street and St. Marks Place, complain that the noise rising from the bar’s open courtyard created “unlivable conditions” since the bar opened a year-and-a-half ago.
“It doesn’t have to be a lot of people in the backyard — it’s just a few people, and they raise their voices and they’re drunk,” said one neighbor, Joslin Han, who has lived on Fourth Avenue, two doors down from where the bar opened, for 23 years. “It is open space and everybody can hear clearly, especially at night.”
She soundproofed her windows, but said it didn’t help.
Another neighbor, Jeff Fader, says he just wants to enjoy his backyard garden, which abuts the bar.
“This is a commercial and residential district, but I feel like the backyard should be for the residents,” said Fader, who has lived on Bergen Street near Fourth Avenue for 10 years. “If you go out on Fourth Avenue, it’s a very commercial avenue, but if you go in the backyard, it’s the backyard to everybody’s house, and I feel like there shouldn’t be a bar back there.”
Bar owner Jacob Rabinowitz said he’s doing everything he can to appease his neighbors, first by hanging signs reminding his customers to stay quiet, then by closing the garden at midnight on weeknights, and at 1 am on weekends.
Then, last week, he put the finishing touches on a 10-foot-tall, sound-absorbing cinderblock wall around the entire courtyard.
But his efforts are falling on (not so) deaf ears: Fader said the cinderblock wall has only made a “10-percent” difference in noise levels.
“It’s nicer that we can’t see them, but the noise is still there,” he added. “We don’t know if that’s going to work, but so far it’s still a work in progress.”
Rabinowitz said he is always open to community input and suggestions, and just wants to be a good neighbor.
“I respect my neighbors and the community that I’m in, and I’m happy to work with everybody who lives in this community,” Rabinowitz said.
Neighbors — including Fader and Han — have called 311, the police, and elected officials, but it’s unclear how much noise the bar is really making. After all, cops have never ticketed the joint for noise, said one police officer familiar with the situation.
“It’s loud if you live next door to him,” the cop said, expressing a little sympathy for the supposed devil. “The guy is actually trying to do something to satisfy his neighbors — he’s trying to help with the sound.”
The conflict is just the latest on the “New Fourth Avenue,” where a new crop of bars and restaurants are butting up against longtime residents unaccustomed to people actually seeking out the once-grimy bastion of auto body shops and flat fix joints as a place to have fun.
Two Union Street bars, Union Hall in Park Slope and a proposed oyster bar in Gowanus, faced community objection over noise earlier this year. Neighbors were upset with Union Hall, which is near Fifth Avenue, and the bar has since enforced a strict no-loitering-outside policy. The oyster bar, an offshoot of Jim Mamary’s popular, though controversial, Black Mountain Wine Bar at the corner of Hoyt Street, faced an uphill battle to open after neighbors said it would bring noise to their quiet little corner of Gowanus.
But these types of battles are happening more and more as once forsaken neighborhoods become hot.
“On the one hand, it’s great for the neighborhood to develop a reputation as a destination,” said Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman, pointing to the safety and economic benefits of increased foot traffic. “But by the same token, you get used to and expect a certain quality of life as a neighbor and for that to become shattered and completely disrupted can be devastating.”