For the moment, we can hear the sounds of silence


Something quite remarkable happened this morning.

Sitting on my terrace, in view of the Hudson River, all I heard were the sounds of silence. Never has such a cliché held such relevance or felt so necessary.

Gone were the jackhammers and the trucks signaling their backups with brain-splitting beeps and screeches. And not a single grass trimmer. Or an apartment building under repair. Or the thumps of a Riverdale bridge under construction.

The world was still!

I tried not to search for a reason for the quiet, though perhaps it was a pre-Labor Day respite. Or, maybe, just a gift from God, showing his infinite mercy.

Whatever. It was enough to be thankful for. However short-lived. I am resigned, however, that the normal will soon return to the neighborhood, and that street construction and neighborhood noisemakers will once again pound away at our temporary tranquil existence.


The city likes to claim that there are laws that specify residents’ rights to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. In fact, we can look it up, and all sorts of provisions abound citing decibel levels, allowable construction times, and “noise mitigation plans.”

In April, the city even introduced the “Sleep Act” intended to crack down on noisy cars. Well, good luck with that one, but the problem of street noise goes beyond the occasional loud muffler.

My family has been living in Riverdale for more than three decades, relishing our move from the Upper West Side to have the neighborhood’s fantastic expanse of greenery and quietude wash over our sensory selves.

We didn’t miss for a moment the cacophony of a dump truck making its early morning rounds, or the nonstop rat-a-tatting construction that not only interrupted our sleep patterns, but left our brains twitching on edge to start each day.

We only realized how debilitating this city dissonance was when we settled into our Riverdale digs and gratefully settled into the peace of the place.

That has changed over these years, tranquility a remnant of a Riverdale from an olden time, or so it seems. Instead, there has been the daily assault from endless city construction teams that have carved our streets with no signs of abating.

Yes, maybe we need those new gas lines, or whatever is the latest underground installment, but do we also need the unwanted months-long construction of such eyesores as the huge cement platforms that now stand at the corner of Palisade Avenue and Kappock Street.

Earlier this year, faced with the outpouring of outrage from community activists — yes, I was part of this group — DOT returned to partially restore the area to its natural setting. So, more construction that went on for weeks.

My northern neighbors will now bear witness to more of DOT’s unwanted intrusion with construction about to begin along upper Riverdale Avenue. I empathize.

It is not just the city barging into our neighborhood with construction crews. We have become our own noisemakers with leaf blowers, electric trimmers, and the ongoing building repairs that rattle the neighborhood, not to mention new building construction throughout Riverdale.

Neighborhood expansion is inevitable, and I am not suggesting that infrastructure upkeep is unnecessary. Still, there are sensible steps that can be taken to tamp down the noise. For one — is it outrageous to think that building management companies work in concert to coordinate construction schedules for their respective buildings? And come the fall season, back off the morning leaf blowers? 

Getting the city sensitized to the noise problem is another matter. City regulations permit construction from 7 a.m., to 10 p.m. — essentially, the entire waking day. I imagine elderly folks and parents with young children in particular are not quite appreciative of these “limits” to noise. Or any of us at the height of the pandemic when we were compelled to spend more time inside our apartments.

I might even settle for these existing noise constraints if, in fact, they were based in reality. We have all put up for years with overnight construction that apparently has gotten a pass from these regulations.

So, I will take today. The absence of noise has keened my senses to the beauty of this place embedded into its name.

This Riverdale.

From my terrace, the Hudson River is soundlessly flowing with the distant Palisades an idyllic picture of long trees and stone rises. I can almost hear the sound of a bird chirping — now that would be wonderful.

Paul Thaler, silence, noise, cars, ordinances