Slats all folks! City to Belt Parkway neighbors: Slatted fence is all the noise barrier we’re giving you

Slats all folks! City to Belt Parkway neighbors: Slatted fence is all the noise barrier we’re giving you
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

Bergen Beachers say the city must do more than erect a chain-link fence to quell the louder-than-ever Belt Parkway.

The Department of Transportation moved the highway closer to Bergen Beach during a reconstruction project, obliterating a stand of trees that buffered the neighborhood from the constant onslaught of noise coming off the heavily trafficked Belt, but the agency’s effort to fix the problem — using a chain-link fence skewered with noise-dampening slats — doesn’t work, and now locals say they feel like they’re living next to a racetrack.

“It’s like the Indy 500 coming through your living room,” said Kevin Hiltunen.

Workers uprooted the trees more than two years ago to accommodate renovations to the Paerdegat Overpass Bridge, but it wasn’t long before locals started kicking up a fuss over the incessant roar of engines penetrating the small neighborhood of one-family homes.

In an effort to provide Beachers with some peace and quiet, the agency offered to install a chain-link fence augmented with noise-muffling slats between the Belt and McGuire Field — a solution that locals called tone-deaf and predicted would fall flat.

“It’s not going to do anything,” Bergen Beach resident Valentino Buono told this paper in May. “It’s not a noise barrier in any way. I’m convinced it’s not going to help with the sound.”

Still, workers installed the fence in September, apparently assuming the adage “out of sight, out of mind” applied to the roaring roadway, Hiltunen said.

“I guess their theory was, ‘Psychologically, if they don’t see the cars, they won’t hear the cars,’ ” he said. “So they put up the fence, and it’s hiding the cars, but we can hear them.”

Now locals are concerned about their property values in a neighborhood formerly prized for its quiet, suburban feel — an illusion that’s been ruined by the unending commotion of passing cars, Buono said.

“When I moved in, one of the selling points was that it was quiet,” he said. “It’s one of the very few spots in the city where you don’t feel like you’re in the city. That’s gone. Now I sit on my porch, and I hear the Belt Parkway.”

In pursuing a more satisfying solution to the neighborhood’s noise pollution problem, Hiltunen asked the transportation department to conduct a study to objectively test the new sound barriers and provide a better remedy if the study warrants it, he said.

“If it’s not working, put up a natural, wooden guard-rail barrier, which would stop the noise,” Hiltunen said. “It would bounce off of that and give us some peace.”

The transportation department has no plans to install additional walls, according to a spokesman who did not respond to inquiries whether the agency plans to measure the noise to gauge the fence’s efficacy.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.