This month, Jersey City inspectors, armed with newly-acquired decibel meters, will hit the streets to measure sound levels each time residents call the Police Department to file noise complaints.
The meters are part of a multi-strategy approach the city is using to monitor sound levels in the Newport and Grove Plaza communities, two of the city’s most active social hubs and entertainment hotspots that are also residential communities.
The intent is to bring some peace and quiet to the residents of these neighborhoods without crushing the businesses and lively, fun atmosphere that draws people to these areas for entertainment.
The city is in the process of overhauling its entertainment laws.
The city, eager not to offend any of those constituent groups, is trying to strike the right balance. According to members of the City Council, the city plans to revise its entertainment ordinance, the law that governs bars, restaurants, and cultural events held in public spaces.
The local artists’ community has, in the meantime, gone on the offensive. Early last month, artists began circulating an online petition to save the events held at Grove Plaza. Creative Grove founder Uta Brauser delivered this petition, with hundreds of signatures, to the City Council on Aug. 31. Brauser has for months called on the city to conduct “sound checks” at popular events and social gatherings so the city can begin to set acceptable sound levels for public events.
‘A resource. Not the end all, be all’
“Right now, we have the meters. Our commerce inspectors still need to be trained how to use them,” Maryanne Kelleher, director of the city’s Division of Cultural Affairs, told members of the City Council at its Aug. 31 meeting. Later, she added, “These meters aren’t going to be the end-all, be-all. They’re a resource that will give use useful information. But we’re in the process of updating our entertainment ordinance, [a process] which has been more complicated than a lot of people initially thought it would be.”
Kelleher said the strategy of revising the city’s entertainment ordinance in its entirety has been abandoned by the council. Now, the council and the administration of Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy are looking at such issues as business hours, outdoor seating, and noise levels, and will address them individually in separate ordinances.
While the decibel meters can be used when noise complaints are called into the police, they will also be used to get baseline readings on standard levels of noise throughout Jersey City since, Kelleher said, “In any city there is going to be some noise.”
This decibel testing gets under way just as the summer season is winding down and events at Grove Plaza – and the new outdoor events held this year at Newport – are coming to an end. City inspectors likely won’t be able to do decibel testing at most of these locations until the 2012 season begins.
Brauser, eager to ensure that there is a 2012 season, presented the petition in support of the Grove Plaza events to the City Council at its Aug. 31 meeting. As of that date, the petition had 859 signatures.
“If you read some of the comments that people have made [online with their petition signatures], we’ve had people tell us that these events are the reason they moved to Jersey City,” Brauser, executive director of Arts in Action, told the council. “We’ve had people say that these events are what make Jersey City a great place to live.”
Councilwoman Nidia Lopez, whose Ward C district includes Journal Square, has in the past suggested to Brauser that the Grove Plaza events be moved to the Square.
Brauser said she has met with representatives with the Journal Square Special Improvement District who told her that for several reasons now is not the best time for the arts events to move to that area.
There is already a farmers market at Journal Square on Wednesdays and Fridays that includes many of the vendors who participate in the Downtown Farmers Market at Grove Plaza.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.