Photo by Melissa Elstein – May 2021 Full Moon Over Central Park Reservoir
Dear Friends and Family,
I hope this email continues to find you safe and well, and staying cool during this heat wave!
Last Wednesday, before my Zoom Dorot class, we had a spontaneous discussion about noise pollution and how the sounds of NYC returning to its pre-pandemic volumes have been challenging for many who had become accustomed to a quieter city during the shutdowns. Of course, we all agree that the sounds of our city recovering from a year of tragedy and trauma is a positive sign that the pandemic is waning, and NYC and other cities are on the road to health and fiscal recoveries. Such sounds indicate a healthy, vibrant, and creative multi-cultural urban environment. The sounds of diners in vibrant outdoor cafes and children playing together evoke happy times. Sport teams in the parks are once again competing before cheering crowds and we experience healthy competition amongst athletes. Returning outdoor concerts, shows and dance performances remind us of the social importance of the arts. These sounds that we had taken for granted in the past, now indicate our resilience and ability to adapt and survive (tempered with the somber knowledge that we tragically lost too many lives to Covid-19).
Yet, as we also discussed, many sounds returning to our urban life are unpleasant, disturbing, unhealthy and I believe unnecessary to city living. Drivers need not lean on their horns while in traffic, and emergency vehicles could have sirens at a lower decibel, such as in European cities. Groups driving loud dirt bikes, illegal ATVs, and souped up motorcycles are not obeying the traffic laws and neither are the drag racing cars that we have all seen and heard during the warmer months. This should not be accepted as the price of urban living. Helicopter tourist flights, for photos or entertainment, are now regularly roaring over residential neighborhoods and our urban parks – all places that should not be subjected to excessively loud aircraft noise. Similarly, helicopters used for commuters to the airports or the Hamptons, among other close destinations, create needless noise as there are multiple cleaner and quieter forms of commuting. These low-flying, fossil-fuel guzzling helicopters are the antithesis of an environmentally friendly urban commuting transportation system. Illegal fireworks are keeping communities up all night with the noise and smoke, and disturbing pets as well. Construction hours could be more limited and banned on weekends; additionally, do we need to be jackhammering our streets open for municipal repairs at 1 A.M. on a weeknight? (Many of us living near West End Avenue experience that all too frequently). We have a city noise code, yet it is rarely enforced and historically it was only minimally discussed by those in power.
However, as a result of the pandemic and residents becoming more aware of the differences between necessary noise and unnecessary noise, pleasant sounds versus disturbances, urban noise may finally be getting the attention it deserves. Hopefully solutions to address and curtail noise pollution will come to fruition soon. A NYC Noise Task Force based in uptown Manhattan has been hosting political candidate Zooms and all their forum recordings are posted to YouTube, including this one-hour event with the Manhattan Borough President candidates: https://youtu.be/7u42T3Bzn-c and this one with some Mayoral and Comptroller candidates: https://youtu.be/i7U2_1bT0bY They are very much worth watching.
Recently, Mayoral Candidate Scott Stringer has introduced a noise pollution plan called “Hear Our Noise Complaints” and I attended that press conference. You can watch the press conference via the link in this NY Times article:Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, released a proposal to reduce noise pollution, in part by banning nonessential helicopter flights and promoting efforts to “curb rampant drag racing and get ATVs off the streets.”
Many of you know that when I am not teaching yoga or other movement styles, I engage in volunteer community work, with my most recent endeavor being a Board Member of Stop the Chop NY/NJ – a nonprofit whose mission is to ban the tourist and commuter helicopters over NYC. We are supporting the federal bill introduced by Congressmembers Maloney, Nadler and Velasquez to ban said helicopters; Disney Land and World have such a ban and we think NYC deserves it as well! You can read all about us, sign our petition as well as sign up for our email newsletter here: http://www.stopthechopnynj.org You can also see which candidates and electeds have signed on to our mission (they can endorse us, but as a 501(c)(3) we cannot endorse candidates).
As a yoga and qigong teacher and practitioner, I seek peacefulness within and hope to contribute to a more peaceful world. An external quiet world does not necessarily mean than our internal state of being will be peaceful. But, it certainly is more conducive towards ones practice of mindfulness and the healing arts if our environment is not filled with noise pollution – a known stressor that has been linked to numerous diseases.
Here is a descriptive chart from the American Public Health Association’s Noise & Health Committee Environment Section (of which I am honored to be a new member) of how noise pollution negatively affects us:
With so much of the external noise pollution triggers beyond our control, I do hope that our calming and meditative practices learned in yoga, qigong and meditation can help us deal with the stress of noise and to reduce its harmful effects. Additionally, finding other pleasant alternative noise can assist with countering the fight or flight nervous system response. I have been enjoying these two meditation music videos as a beautiful visual and auditory counter to stressful noise: Jason Stephenson – Chakra Healing Music https://youtu.be/BlSbq3VJcPY and Meditative Mind https://youtu.be/gz-SCxj8rds
Enjoy and let me know what you think of all the above.
Please see my schedule for all my offerings this Summer, including class descriptions. Thank you for your support of my teachings!