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New effort aims to muffle blaring 'noise wagons' in city

Buffalo city officials call it an assault on the senses.

The ear-splitting pounding of blaring stereos from passing vehicles spurred a series of actions in recent years.

Lawmakers increased penalties for noise violations. Police began issuing more summonses to motorists whose souped-up sound systems were rattling the windows of homes.

The Common Council even talked at length in 2006 about banning certain types of car stereos. The debate ended after a national trade group threatened to mount a noisy and potentially costly -- court fight.

City Hall's leading critic of "noise wagons" said he's disappointed that more progress hasn't been made, and he's intensifying his push for a new law that would give the city the power to seize, remove and impound stereo systems in vehicles that play music at illegally high volumes.

"It's worse than ever," lamented Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk. "The boom cars are cacophonous noise. The constant pounding. The ear-splitting noise."

Peabody Street resident Jack Wagner said noise wagons also jeopardize safety at busy intersections.

"It drowns out all the sounds, and you can't even hear any emergency vehicles whatsoever," said Wagner, noting that these types of noise woes intensify during warmer weather.

Wagner said he supports efforts to pass an ordinance amendment that would give police the power to impound the car stereos of people who thumb their noses at Buffalo's noise ordinance.

Franczyk, who proposed the new law in September, said he met recently with the city's top legal expert to discuss the next steps. Franczyk said Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Ball is doing research.

"He said he is analyzing a couple of recent cases in the State of New York that deal with this very issue," Franczyk said.

The goal is to make sure that any new ordinance can pass legal muster, Franczyk said. He is hoping that a draft law will be presented to the Council early this summer, giving it enough time to review and vote on the measure before the August recess.

Booming car stereos aren't the only things that shatter neighborhood tranquility, according to Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto. He said noisy motorcycles with loud pipes have become an increasing late-night annoyance in some areas, including streets around the Hertel Business District where he resides.

Franczyk agreed, noting that some earlier discussions raised the notion of imposing new regulations involving motorcycle-generated disturbances.

The most recent proposal, however, is expected to focus on car stereo systems, which have traditionally triggered a large number of noise complaints, especially during late spring, summer and early autumn. Franczyk stressed that the problem isn't confined to his Fillmore neighborhood.

"It's downtown. It's East Side. It's West Side. It's north. It's south," he said. "It's all around the town."

Persistent noise disturbances are more than just pesky annoyances, said Franczyk, noting studies have concluded that excessive noise can cause some people to experience high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.

No one is suggesting that the city can be rid of all noise, the lawmaker added. But when motorists cruise down streets blaring excessively loud music, he said, they should be forced to suffer consequences.

"You're at the red light, and you almost get knocked out of your seat in your car because of the boom car behind you," he said.