New York Tourists from all over the world love to see New York City from atop open-air double-decker sightseeing buses, but the noisy loudspeakers aboard have driven New Yorkers who live in those landmark neighborhoods to wear ear plugs inside and keep their windows shut tight.
The New York City Council passed legislation Thursday that requires sightseeing buses to replace their loudspeaker systems with headphones. A phase-in period begins in July 2011, and by July 2015, all open-air sightseeing buses operating citywide must use headphones.
New York City’s sightseeing bus fleet has grown rapidly since the buses first appeared on streets in the early 1990s, and efforts to quiet their noisy loudspeakers have also persisted for years, particularly in more residential neighborhoods like the West Village, SoHo and Chinatown in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.
“It’s unbearable, it really is,” said Ellen Peterson-Lewis, who has lived in Manhattan’s West Village for 50 years.
Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the bill and is expected to sign it, said the sightseeing bus industry is important to the city’s overall tourism business, which is a major economic engine for New York. Tourists spent $32.1 billion here in 2008.
Tour operators say the proposed regulations will be costly and have told the city they would have preferred to address specific neighborhood concerns rather than have a citywide law.