How can I deal with the bass from a church next door?
January 8, 2012 9:24 AM   Subscribe

How to deal with the bass from a church I share a wall with?

I live in an apartment building in NYC and share a wall with a concert venue. I've lived here for two years, and although it was always loud when concerts let out and people were screaming drunkenly outside, I just put in a pair of earplugs and called it a night.

At some point within the past 6 months or so, however, the venue must have installed a new sound system because bass is ruining my life. I've sort of been able to deal with the sound of shows in the evening (although it's far from ideal), just by waiting it out or combining ear plugs with a pillow over my head and an Ambien, but the worst offender is a church that has services at the venue every Sunday morning. I don't know what aspect of services requires it (from the website the church seems to be designed for cool young people, FWIW), but beginning at 8am every Sunday, a thumping bass beat repeats loudly enough that there is no way I can sleep through it even if I go in another room of my apartment.

I've tried noise complaints, both by calling 311 and my local precinct, but since I'm in New York absolutely nothing has come of it. I've tried writing a letter to my community board, and I've tried going next door to ask them to turn it down. I've even tried rearranging my bedroom so that my bed isn't against the wall I share with the venue. None of this has done anything. Because of my apartment's position in the building, I most closely abut the venue and so it's way more of a problem for me than it is for my neighbors so asking them to complain also isn't really an option.

I love my apartment and really don't want to move, but when a show ends at 2 or 3 am on Saturday and the constant thumping starts at 8am, I honestly feel like I am going to lose my mind. My question is whether any fellow or former New Yorkers have any ideas on how I can get this place to turn down their bass (or honestly, at this point, get them shut down - I don't even care) OR if anyone has any ideas on how to eliminate/decrease the bass (carpeting my floor, putting something on the wall, different earplugs, etc.). Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!
posted by lxs to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Start looking for a new place.
posted by zadcat at 9:28 AM on January 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Hmm. I would start in a few places, but what did they say when you went over to talk to them?

First of all, there's going to be nothing you can do about the apartment itself aside from building a room within a room for you to create a soundproof environment for you to sleep (for the record, I am about to embark on a similar project for my neighbors' benefit, so memail if this is actually a possiblility for you). Bass is the hardest sound to eliminate, as well all know from knowing when the UPS truck drives by while we're in the back of the house/apt/you-get-the-idea.

SO. If you really want to not-move, start with zoning regulations, whether they needed to engage the neighborhood (here we have comment periods other ways for neighbors to be involved) before installing a new sound system, whether the wattage of the sound system is regulated for the size of the place and proximity to neighbors. Basically, start going to the city. If the church is blowing you off or telling you you're going to go to hell for complaining (and I bet at 8am they are only warming up), you're going to have to bring the law down upon them, and since they are a church it will likely be an uphill battle of exclusions and special laws and easements and yadda yadda yadda, but fight the good fight! Good luck.
posted by rhizome at 9:33 AM on January 8, 2012

Hi, I own a loud dog. When you register a noise complaint (at least against an animal) in NYC it works like this:

You complain, and they get a letter of warning stating that if after three weeks another complaint is filed, they will get another warning. If another complaint is filed, they get a second warning stating that if after another three weeks a complaint is filed, they will get a third warning. The third warning states that if after another two weeks a complaint is filed, they will send an inspector who will assay the situation and issue a fine if necessary. Every complaint after that is a new fine. At all times, the individual/entity complained against has the ability to write a letter demonstrating how they are attempting to correct the problem.

In summary: trying to complain to the city is a byzantine and hopeless process, just like you think it is. However, if you keep following up with 311, there's a slim change you'll be able to accomplish something. Very slim, indeed.

Sorry, friend, but I think you might need to start looking for another place. HOWEVER, you might be able to strong-arm the landlord into covering brokers fees or something like that. My mom managed to do that once when we were unceremoniously booted from an illegal sublet when I was a kid. Others will have better advice on that.
posted by griphus at 9:34 AM on January 8, 2012

Short answer, find a new place. You moved into a place that shares a wall with a concert venue. The stress and time and money and the ill-will you're going to gain from this are not worth it.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 9:42 AM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is no way to truly muffle the bass ever, seriously. Even if you were deaf from birth you'd still be awakened by the vibrations.

No apartment is worth that kind of headache.
posted by elizardbits at 9:58 AM on January 8, 2012

You are not going to win this one other than by moving. Occasionally unruly neighbors, well, that's a situation that can be finessed, but neighbors for whom loud music is the raison d'etre are going to be an insoluble problem.
posted by killdevil at 10:09 AM on January 8, 2012

Be careful with the community boards. I don't know what CB you are in, but I know that a lot of the CB are very very very very very closely aligned with churches (as in they are often the very same busybodies) and if that particular church has someone sitting on the board you could find yourself a pariah if you complain or take action. The flip side is that if the church is new and not involved with the CB, the board can be influential in getting them to reduce their noise (which is to say, getting them to join the community board.) This advise also applies to your local politicians who love churches full of people more than they like you.

Of course, in any given NYC tenant dispute, the easiest and best solution is to just move and slag off the church in the Gothamist comment section. Best of lucks.
posted by fuq at 10:52 AM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ok, so I'm not a scientist and I don't play one on tv, but I'm wondering if all that bass and vibration could be causing a danger to the buildings? Loosening/falling plaster? Maybe this is an avenue you could pursue, especially with your landlord as he owns the property and has a vested interest in its upkeep. Good luck.
posted by NoraCharles at 10:57 AM on January 8, 2012

true story: I had a similar problem back when i was living in nyc, right by the opening of the lincoln tunnel. as part of then-mayor Guiliani's plan to eradicate fun in the city, he had installed one of those big traffic arrows (the kind with the sign-board attached that says things like 'traffic ahead, 15-min delay' and etc) The problem? the sign was planted directly in the street, taking up a full lane of traffic, so suddenly 'just enough lanes of traffic' was switched to 'just NOT enough lanes of traffic.' Problem 2: mayor Guiliani's voice coming out of a bullhorn speaker on top of the thing urging drivers to 'SLOW DOWN' and 'drive safely for a better New York' repeated over and over again at full volume. the non-stop-honking traffic jams that this thing caused were truly EPIC.

what i learned: absolutely NOBODY is ever going to lift a finger to stop the inchoherent, stark-naked guy vigorously stabbing the speaker to death with a foot-long flat-head screwdriver while screaming SHUT THE FUCK UP! over and over again. no one will stop him to ask what he plans to do with the screwdriver. no one will get in his way. no one will try to replace the speaker.

sometimes, very rarely, the obvious solution to the problem will be lying right there in the open, right by your baser instincts.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:22 PM on January 8, 2012 [29 favorites]

Have you gone over and talked to the church worship team sound guy? At least try that first.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:17 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Failing talking to the worship team, the "screaming naked guy with a screwdriver" solution sounds satisfying, and possibly amusing.

If you do this, please could you take video?
posted by jrochest at 3:37 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

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