Joyful Noise Unto the Lord
Last year, there were more than 900 calls to 311 about noisy houses of worship. The leading targets of complaints demonstrate the city’s religious diversity. Here they are, in descending order:
1. Masjid al-Aman, a mosque in East New York, Brooklyn, that like many mosques summons the faithful to prayer through roof-mounted loudspeakers, five times a day (83 calls to 311).
“It’s actually really loud,” said Mujibur Rahman, who runs the youth program at the mosque. “You can hear it 20 blocks away.”
One recent chilly morning outside the mosque, the muezzin’s rising call filled the air. It was 5:39 and still dark. Men filed into the red-carpeted sanctuary and knelt toward Mecca to pray.
Mr. Rahman, 33, said he had suggested that the mosque’s leaders reduce the volume. “You don’t want to cause animosity, and already Muslims are a target,” he said.
Last spring, after a city noise inspector measured the call to prayer at above the legal limit, the city asked the mosque to turn it down, too. The mosque’s lawyer claimed exemption under a city code covering bells, chimes and organs at houses of worship. But a judge disagreed and issued a $450 fine.
Some neighbors have no problem with the mosque. “It does wake me sometimes, but it doesn’t bother me,” said Jason Rosa, a barber at Madd Cutz, down the block. “It’s what they believe.”
2. The Sabbath siren that sounds (like an air-raid horn) every Friday evening at Congregation Bais Yaakov Nechemia D’satmar, a synagogue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn (61 calls to 311).
When the siren goes off at the busy intersection of Myrtle and Bedford Avenues, those in the traditional garb of Hasidic Jews quicken their steps to get home. At a Chinese restaurant across the street one recent Friday, Danielle Bowden waited out the 90-second horn blast with annoyance. “If you’re really practicing your faith, you don’t need a siren,” Ms. Bowden, 26, a pastry chef, said.
The city has issued a noise violation to the synagogue; the synagogue is fighting it.
One Hasidic passer-by, Mordechai Leiby, said the siren served a valuable function. “This is the most hectic time of the day, everybody is rushing around and they really need something to wake them up that it’s time to finish what they’re doing,” he said. “In fact, I don’t think it’s loud enough.”
3. A building in the Bronx that houses two storefront churches — one Spanish-speaking, the other with a largely African congregation (27 calls to 311).
The Spanish-speaking church, Congregación Cristiana del Bronx, features an amplified band with a full drum kit. The African church, Blood of Jesus Ministry, holds late services several nights a week.
Katheryn Acevedo, 37, lives directly above the churches on East 180th Street and said she would have moved out long ago if she had the money.
“With the Spanish church, sometimes you feel the bass through your bed,” said Ms. Acevedo, a nursing student. “When you put your head on the pillow, it’s impossible to go to sleep.” With the African church, “they do music, they do screaming, they do chanting — and it’s almost every single night.”
The pastor of the Spanish church, Miguel Guzman, said his church had a special sound system that “prevents noise from getting outside the church.” The pastor of the African church, Ernest Amoateng, said he had addressed the issue by stopping Friday night services by midnight instead of 3 a.m.
4. A Hindu temple, Shiva Mandir, in East Elmhurst, Queens (17 calls to 311).
The temple’s president, Robin Mahabir, said he suspected that all of the complaints came from one neighbor across the street.
“He puts a speaker on the window ledge and points it at us,” blasting speeches by the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Mr. Mahabir said. “I try to talk to him and he walks away.”
At the house in question, the front door was adorned with quotations from the Quran. A man answered the door and was asked about the temple. “They’re the ones making noise” was all he said.