Sometimes the threats to our quality of life strike close to home, in the middle of the night…from the “bump, bump, bump” that assaults our ears because this City Administration, like the one before it, refuses to protect our neighborhoods from the assault of unregulated noise.
The BUKU Festival is just the latest evidence that there is no noise control program in the City of New Orleans; that noise control and monitoring programs are not funded; that our police department, assigned to respond to noise complaints, refuse to do so in meaningful ways; and that our Safety and Permits Department continues to approve illegal live entertainment permits all in the name of city revenue.
The major difference with the BUKU Festival is that it assaulted the ears of homeowners from Algiers Point to east New Orleans with beaucoup levels of noise. As a French Quarter resident, I have used every resource at my disposal to fight noise pollution, but there are those who think this is an acceptable problem for anyone living within blocks of Bourbon Street.
Now, many outside the Quarter are learning exactly what this Administration is willing to give up to make our city the party capital of the United States. They will gladly trade your sanity and neighborhood sanctity!
Illegal noise in New Orleans is not a new problem, but it has proliferated since Hurricane Katrina, as unlicensed music venues set up shop in neighborhoods from Marigny to Touro Bouligny and this Administration turned a blind eye, and then an accommodating pat on the back to grandfather in activities which clearly violate city zoning ordinances.
Nothing illustrates this insanity more than when a year ago, one police officer filed suit because the he could not hear his police radio due to unregulated noise in New Orleans.
Working with neighborhood representatives through the volunteer organization HearTheNOLAMusic.org, residents have hired experts to document that there is zero enforcement of the city’s noise ordinance by the police department, few trained officers in noise enforcement outside the Quarter, and worse, no working noise monitors on most nights.
Yet, the existing city noise ordinance lays down a very simple marker for businesses and citizens to follow, and for city officials to enforce. Councilwoman Kristin Palmer has tried for years to update this ordinance, but even she seems unable to get a noise study she sponsored to see the light of day. Thus, the ordinance remains on the books, but largely ignored.
As New Orleanians, music is part of our DNA. We respect the spontaneity of a secondline and treasure our homegrown musicians. But serious musicians, event organizers and club owners work hard to reward us with wonderful melodies at sensible times with proper volumes, because their talent depends on being able to hear!
History shows, on the other hand, that out-of-control street musicians, clubs and event organizers will push the envelope to unprecedented noise levels at all times of the day and night if allowed to, no matter the cost to any one’s health.
It is important that this Administration hear us: This is NOT acceptable.
Tourism may be our city’s lifeblood, but it is not the license to sell our quality of life to wayward promoters and club owners. The two-day BUKU Fest in no way mimicked the established Jazz Fest, yet it seems to be the sign of things to come as the Administration seeks to create a 12-month “spring break” atmosphere in New Orleans.
This is a very dangerous idea until city officials demonstrate a rigorous responsibility for proper event permitting and noise enforcement, so that our quality of life ordinances are not completely obliterated, as they were last weekend. One news report showed BUKU was illegally permitted, and TV stations reported Councilmembers were not even aware the event was scheduled in their districts.
Residents are fighting back in the courts to curtail these illegal activities and regain their power in protecting their neighborhoods and their homes.
But be warned, New Orleans: the BUKU Festival is a middle-of-the-night wake-up call. The question is who’s listening.
Read the NOLA Defender report on the BUKU music festival and rampant noise complaints at: http://www.noladefender.com/content/buku-noi47se-fest-ga3rners-citywide-complaints-permit-questions
To keep informed about the battle for balance in New Orleans, visit the “Hear The Music Stop the Noise” website – and sign our petition: http://hearthenolamusic.org
Please visit and “like” our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/HeartheNolaMusic
To read my Aug. 3 blog post about noise pollution from New Orleans to New York, please check out: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/from-new-york-to-new-orleans-noise-pollution-terrorizes-the-public/
Check out my Feb. 9, 2012 blog post about New Orleans noise pollution at: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/when-the-party-gets-too-loud-new-orleans-residents-wither-under-noise-pollution
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