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Two weeks ago, a reader reported that she was being “plagued by a mystery sound in the air most of the day and night — a high pitched noise from afar that sounds like a tuning fork.” We asked W42ST readers if they had been experiencing the sound pollution anywhere else in Hell’s Kitchen.

The YOTEL rooftop (middle right) viewed from The Victory with The Strand (left), Manhattan Plaza (middle) and MiMA (top right). Photo: Michael William G.

A pattern emerged of apartments that were at 30-stories or above around the corner of W42nd Street and 10th Avenue. Soon after that, things focused on machinery on top of YOTEL in the MiMA luxury apartment building. YOTEL re-opened a few weeks ago after a long-term closure during the pandemic.

The Related Properties management team at MiMA was contacted mid-week to ask to deal with the “high-pitched” sound coming from machinery on top of the 27-floor high YOTEL, part of the 63-story glass tower complex that spans W41st and W42nd Street between 10th and Dyer Avenues. Their Condominium Administrator, Steven DeRuvo, responded by email saying that engineers had looked at the machinery and “the machine struggled with the strong winds to operate correctly, but everything is working now.”

The noise appears to have got worse. The question still remains whether it is being caused by machinery or something else. Below is one of several videos and audio recordings sent to us today from buildings overlooking the machinery — including The Victory, Manhattan Plaza, MiMA, and The Strand.

The noise is testing the patience of many, although all stressed that they realize living in New York City has noise challenges.

This afternoon, we spoke to Laura Lutterbie who lives on the 45th Floor at Manhattan Plaza (and we could hear the sound in the background!). “The noise kept me up last night and has been on/off all morning and going strong right now! If my TV is on, I don’t hear it, but the constant and sometimes on/off noise is awful! A high-pitched ‘tuning fork’ is the best way to describe it. I haven’t seen a difference on a windy day or a calm day,” she told us. “If every building in New York City with cooling towers had this noise day and night, there’d be many more suicides. I’m an old lady, and usually calm, but not since YOTEL re-opened. Life is tough enough for everyone — we don’t need further stressors!”

Michael William G, who recorded the video above from his apartment at The Victory, said: “This noise can be a bit unbearable at times. Not only does it prevent me from opening my windows to get fresh air (luckily our windows block 90% of the sound), but sometimes the sound creeps in when I’m trying to sleep — even when I have a sleep machine on and an air conditioner. I really hope that by bringing this to light we can figure what the issue is and that the building fixes this. I know this is New York and that there are going to be noises, but this constant high pitch sound is not what I signed up for.”

The reader who originally raised the issue, but who wants to remain anonymous, told us today: “I’ve lived in New York City for more than 20 years, and in this building for over 10, so I expect street noise, sirens, horns, construction, and the like, but this high-pitched howling tuning fork is a new development. It has gotten loud enough and constant enough during windy winters to wake us up in the middle of the night. When I am on the phone, people ask me what that noise is in the background. It’s like noise pollution.”

The YOTEL on 10th Avenue with the west tower of Manhattan Plaza to the left. Photo: Michael William G.

Michelle Raum and her husband, David Stein, are both suffering because of the noise. They live on the 36th floor of Manhattan Plaza. Michelle, referring to the community of performing artists in the building, told us: “It seems to be an A. We don’t need it to tune-up, there are enough musicians with perfect pitch in the building.”

David said: “I have some hearing loss, but unfortunately not in that range. It’s very annoying.”

Another reader, who lives in MiMA and asked to not be quoted by name, told us: “We have just returned from a walk to get away from the noise — and it’s still going strong. I can tell you that it’s been going on for many weeks. It definitely sounds like wind blowing through something, causing a whistling. The noise is incessant and has even awoken us in the night. It is louder with higher winds…today it’s been going nonstop since at least 10am. It is difficult to focus since we are now working remotely and we can literally hear it all day long! This week it was noticeable about 75% of the time.”

This is not the first time that high-pitched noise has become a problem in the city. Although the YOTEL rooftop has become a focus for attention, a change in local buildings and wind might be to blame (especially with so much construction in the Hudson Yards area). Back in 2013, the new World Trade Center caused issues in Tribeca, and as far back as 2006, the New Scientist wrote about buildings causing noise pollution.

We have reached out to management at MiMA, Related and YOTEL for an update on the noise. At the time of publication, they had not responded. We will update the story when they do.

Currently, the best course of action is to register a noise complaint by calling 311 or visiting https://portal.311.nyc.gov/report-problems/

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3 Comments

  1. I hear this noise every night from my apartment on the EAST SIDE. It is horrible. I wish someone would make it stop.

  2. Thank God I found this article. I live on the East Side and have been dealing with this almost constant sound for days. I called 311 and they said they need a source in order to deal with the complaint. Well, at least now I can give them a location. This has to stop! Tens of thousands of people are affected by this.

  3. I am hearing this from the top floor of the Armory on 42 near 11th. It is sporadic. The only reason it really stands out to me — because where I am, it feels muted in some way — is that my dog hears it and is TERRIFIED. Nonstop. Until it goes away or lessens. I’d really love to find the source.

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