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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

New York City Department of Environmental Protection
New York City Department of Buildings
Responsiveness to Noise Complaints Related to Construction Projects (Follow-Up)


Issued: February 4, 2020
Link to full audit report 2019-F-37
Link to NYC Department of Buildings 30-day response

Objective
To determine the extent of implementation of the recommendations in our initial audit report, Responsiveness to Noise Complaints Related to Construction Projects (Report 2016-N-3).

About the Program
Our initial report, which was issued on August 31, 2017, examined whether the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) had effectively enforced the New York City Noise Code (Noise Code) and adequately addressed noise complaints related to construction in New York City. The audit period was January 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016. 

The audit identified a total of 90,861 construction noise complaints were called in to New York City’s 311 system for the period January 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016. The audit also found that the number of construction noise complaints called into New York City’s 311 system had risen from 14,259 in 2010 to 37,806 in 2015, mostly due to the number of after-hours variances (AHVs) issued by DOB. As indicated by the World Health Organization’s Guidelines for Community Noise, the general population is increasingly exposed to community noise, creating the potential for a significant public health concern. The audit found a need for improvements in the communication and coordination between DEP and DOB as well as an overhaul of the process used by DOB for issuing and renewing AHVs to more effectively address persistent noise problems. Neither DEP nor DOB accessed New York City’s 311 system as a resource to identify locations with multiple construction noise complaints or to identify and analyze the major sources of noise complaints. The audit also found that violations for excessive noise were rarely issued and DEP inspection reports did not include noise meter readings. In addition, DOB was allowing contractors to obtain extensions of existing AHVs or multiple AHVs for the same construction sites without critical review. The audit found planned construction work that was inconsistent with the reason for the AHV approval. Auditors made a total of nine recommendations – six to DEP and three to DOB – addressing the issues we identified.

Key Finding
We found that DEP officials made significant progress in addressing the problems identified in the initial audit report. Of the six recommendations, three were implemented, two were partially implemented, and one was not implemented. For their part, DOB officials made some progress in addressing the problems we identified, implementing one recommendation and partially implementing the remaining two.

Key Recommendation
Officials are given 30 days after the issuance of the follow-up report to provide information on any actions that are planned to address the unresolved issues discussed in this report.


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Kenrick Sifontes
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236