Residents Sound Off Over Concert Noise from Tribeca's Pier 26
Three days of Gay Pride Week festivities on Pier 26 late last month are capped with a performance by Cher. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
UPDATED JULY 22. See letter below from Independence Plaza Tenants Association president Diane Lapson.
UPDATED JULY 23: See video of July 22 performance by fun. on Pier 26.
Emotions ran high at a Community Board 1 meeting Thursday night as Tribeca residents who had been within earshot of recent concerts on Pier 26 vented their anger over noise they said rattled windows, walls and nerves.
Complaints poured in to 311, the First Precinct and the community board following three days of Gay Pride Week events on the pier in late June, capped by an appearance by Cher. Many of those who were bothered by the noise live in Independence Plaza, across West Street Street from the Hubert Street pier.
"At first everybody was saying, 'Oh, there's something great to celebrate this year," said Diane Lapson, president of the Independence Plaza Tenant Association and a CB1 member. "But it was such loud music, and three days in a row, like it was the Woodstock Festival."
Alan Schulkin, a 38-year-resident of Independence Plaza, said he was on the phone during a concert when the person on the other end told him to turn the music down. "That's how bad it was," Schulkin said. "If it was a bar or a restaurant, they would've been ticketed. There's no way anybody can play music that loud and get away with it."
Some said the volume was even worse from the booming sounds of the British rock group, The Specials, who performed on July 17. Unlike the Heritage of Pride events, The Specials and seven upcoming Pier 26 concerts this summer are produced by Bowery Presents, who was not represented at the meeting. They did not return a request on Friday for comment. (The next two concerts on the 5,000-capacity pier, sold-out performances by the group fun., are on July 22 and 23.)
Chris Frederick, Heritage of Pride's managing director, was visibly shaken by the complaints. He said he had "looked everywhere" for a new venue for the dance, which had to be relocated from Pier 54.
"We're very sad we upset so many people," Frederick said.
Noting that the Pride Week events on the pier are the organization's sole source of funds, Frederick and Heritage of Pride co-chair Audrey Luce said they are willing to look for ways to lower the sound, such as repositioning speakers or using smaller ones—or even holding smaller events on the first two days.
"We are willing to work with people on how to fix the noise and how to help the community feel better about these events," Frederick said, his voice breaking with emotion, "but to completely just not let us have [the event] would be a disaster."
Capt. Brendan Timoney, the First Precinct's commanding officer, said the NYPD would consider a "joint operation" with the city Department of Environmental Protection to get base readings in apartments before a concert, and then return during the event to measure the change in noise levels. Readings taken at ground level during the previous concerts were within legal limits, he said, but "we are going to try to work this out. It is very concerning to me that the noise level is getting that high in their apartments."
Tom Lindon, director of events for the Hudson River Park Trust, which contracts out the productions, bore much of the residents' anger. He said that the Pier 26 ticketed concerts pay for free events in the park such as ballroom dancing and movies.
"We understand your economics," said John Scott, a long-time Independence Plaza tenant and a Downtown Democratic district leader. "But you can't solve your economic problems by having this loud music right in front of an apartment building that has 3,000 tenants."
Lindon said the Trust is holding this year's Pier 26 summer concerts on a trial basis and takes the complaints "very seriously."
"I will certainly take [the comments] back to senior management," he said, "and they will weigh very, very much in the decision of moving forward with anything on that pier."
Editor's Note: Trib editor Carl Glassman is a tenant of Independence Plaza.
On Monday, July 22, Diane Lapson, president of the Independence Plaza Tenants Association, sent an update on the Pier 26 situation to several tenants in the complex. An excerpt from that email is below:
This morning I had a meeting with Madelyn Wils, President and CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust at her request. It appears that they are very genuine in their desire to mitigate the situation. They are going to experiment with sound, starting tonight with FUN, a group that is performing two concerts this week. The speakers, she explained, when they were responsible for them, were facing down and though they cannot move the stage to face the River at this point, they are going to make sure that the sound is not any higher than the legal decibel level. Additionally, she would like me to give feedback after tonight's concert - and have an ongoing dialog about what works and what does not. If they cannot fix issues so the noise is bearable, they will not have those kinds of concerts there in the future. I mentioned and explained IP tenant Liz Berger's suggestion of facing the speakers towards the river at the front of the pier as an alternative to fix the problem next year; (it's too cost prohibitive to even think about that now) but again, if these initial steps do not work out, they will not have the concerts next year. They do not want to create community problems. There is some money that is raised for the Hudson River Park Trust, which helps to pay for the high cost of all the other downtown concerts and activities. However, causing a community problem, again, is not their desire, said Madelyn Wils.
Please note that they also received many emails saying how much fun people had at the concerts on the pier; so there are folks who enjoyed it as well as folks who were disturbed by the loudness of the sound. Whether those folks who enjoyed it live at Independence Plaza or the surrounding area on the water, I do not know.
One of the problems is that Heritage of Pride controlled their own sound and activity. Before next year’s event, we will be speaking with them about their 3-day extravaganza. They did mention that perhaps they wouldn’t have full-blown music for the whole three days, and actually, they were supposed to have only talking for the first two events; music on the third. Though we made it very clear at the CB meeting that by no means did any of us have any problems with their celebrating the end of gay pride weekend, it nonetheless impacted in a big way on our community and things need to be discussed to change that for the future. Having them find another location would take a lot of community activism; the state desired them on that pier.
Hudson River Park Trust did come to the community board, Tribeca Committee to present these plans twice. Once back in April, and then, recently. They presented the plans in advance, before booking and the Tribeca Committee was unanimously in favor of concerts on the pier, feeling we haven’t had entertainment down here for a long time. I don’t think anyone realized the impact of how sound travels on the water, and with surrounding buildings.