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Sounds Of Silence

Decibel ratings of standby generators

discussed with the public

Noise was the order of the night at the Garden City Board of Trustees meeting at Village Hall on Tuesday. Not from any sort of spirited debate between board members and the public; rather, a bit of noise about noise itself.

Specifically, the noise of standby generators. Resident Amanda Mancuso asked the board to reconsider the decibel rating restrictions for such generators.

These types of permanent generators are generally for emergency use only, although superstorm Sandy pushed the limits in terms of how long these types of devices had to run.

This concerned mother has a premature baby, and should the lights go out again for whatever reason, she says the generator is vital for the care of her child.

“Having standby generators would allow [residents] to stay in their homes, retaining heat...[as well as] other people in the village who have a medical necessity,” Mancuso said.

Currently, there is a decibel rating of 56 and under for standby generators, even though she says the quietest such generator available for purchase is in the 66 db range. Also, portable generators have no regulations, and their decibel range is generally over 70.

Mancuso went on to say that other local communities have no decibel requirements, and that keeping the lights on would keep criminals away from homes, and police would not have to keep patrolling powerless areas.

To further drive home her point, Mancuso says the average vacuum cleaner comes in at 70 decibels, which is what she believes the threshold should be.

“No one wants to hear the droning of generators, but in reality, our storms are getting worse, they’re getting more severe, as we saw, LIPA was unable to get our power back [timely],” she said.

Superintendent of Buildings Michael Filippon said that the village uses the Town of Hempstead sound ordinance of 56, and that the decibel limits apply to property lines, not at the ratings that manufacturers set forth, generally at seven meters around the unit.

Filippon recommended that those purchasing a generator use an acoustical engineer to establish a higher decibel rating at a greater distance to account for property lines. The installation of an acoustical barrier to reduce noise is also a path to compliance.

Filippon added that the requirements were installed after Hurricane Irene, not Sandy. Out of 7500 residents, there were only about a dozen or so applications for a generator permit.

“You have to weigh the needs of 10-12 individual families against our obligation to protect the remaining 7500, and that’s why we invoked this noise requirement,” Filippon said.

Ultimately, according to Filippon, it will be up to the board if they want to amend the decibel rating.

Other tidbits from Tuesday’s meeting:

- The treasurer’s report noted an over $14.4 million cash balance, and that account expenses were up due to Sandy. A report has been submitted to FEMA for reimbursement, including additional funds used for street light maintenance.

- The board agreed to move an item from the agenda regarding the request by the Mental Health Association of Nassau County to go door to door from February through October to offer assistance to those affected by Sandy. The board seemed to agree that nine months seemed excessive for that sort of request.

- The next board of trustees meeting will be held on March 7 at 8 p.m.