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NY Post
New York Post
5 Aug 2023


NextImg:Jazz club sues NYC after ticket blitz from Adams empowered civilian ‘noise police’: ‘Bounty system’

The Adams administration is enabling citizen “bounty hunters” who rake in big bucks by illegally banging businesses with hefty summonses for violating the city’s noise-pollution regs, a new lawsuit charges.

Mayor Adams and the city Department of Environmental Protection is allowing a “modern day bounty system” to cavalierly operate where self-appointed “noise police” with no formal training use smart phones to test sound levels, claims Mohamed John Akhtar, owner of Swing 46 Jazz & Supper in Midtown’s famed “Restaurant Row,” in a Manhattan federal court civil-rights lawsuit filed last week.

The suit also accuses Manhattan-based lawyer Eric Eisenberg and 30 unnamed citizen enforcers of using “fraudulent” methods to dish out noise-code summonses that run $440 to $5,250 each — of which they stand to collect up to 50% of fines levied.

Eisenberg has filed 3,094 complaints since January 2022 — the most of any citizen enforcer, records show.

He and other enforcers place their listening devices up against glass windows and speakers of bars and eateries to capture sound levels exceeding city limits, according to the suit and eyewitnesses. They hand out summonses directly or file a complaint with DEP.

Sarah Hayes says the city must do something to stop fines from citizen enforcers.
Stefano Giovannini

“These guys continue daily to wreak financial havoc around the city to hard-working restaurateurs who are barely staying afloat after inflation, COVID and skyrocketing rents,” said Sarah Hayes, a singer and manager at Swing 46, told The Post. “These ridiculous violations have to stop now. Restaurants will be forced to close.”

Hayes said she’s previously confronted Eisenberg after spotting him sticking his smartphone up against the jazz club’s patio speaker. The suit alleges Swing 46 faces “crippling fines” resulting from at least a half dozen summonses — including one in default — issued by Eisenberg and other citizens.

Anthony Iannarelli Jr., a lawyer for Swing 46, said dozens of other businesses on and near Restaurant Row — including Mercury Bar, Ragtrader and McCarty’s Pub — have been hit by the ticket blitz.

summonses

Theresa Sigler, manager of Pig N Whistle pub, showing the many summonses they received.
Stefano Giovannini

The wave of civilian-written summonses was spurred by a program then-Mayor Bill de Blasio created in 2019, allowing citizens to make money by ratting out drivers who leave commercial vehicles idling.

Some of the citizens who were enforcing idling regulations moved on enforcing noise pollution to score bigger paydays.

Eisenberg and Queens resident Dietmar Detering are responsible for roughly 95% of the 5,892 civilian noise complaints issued citywide since January 2022, records show.

The summonses, which are decided by the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, total at least $2.4 million in potential fines.

Eisenberg insists he is helping New Yorkers and that his cut of fines collected totals only “four figures,” with many of his complaints tossed or yet to be decided.

He called Swing 46 a “bad neighbor” that “must start following [city] laws.”

The suit also accuses the city of refusing to turn over evidence as “discovery” to Swing 46 so it could properly fight its summonses and is seeking a court ruling to end the citizen ticket blitz and unspecified money damages.

City lawyers declined to comment on the lawsuit.

However, DEP Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala, whose agency oversees the noise code, said “it’s disappointing that a small group of people are abusing the system to terrorize local businesses for personal profit under the pretense of protecting the environment” and that he plans to work with the City Council to “make common sense changes” to the law.