City of Boston Refuses to Enforce Noise Ordinance On Behalf of Condominium Owners – Condominium Associations File Lawsuit Against City of Boston

Published on: November 14, 2018

Last week MEEB Attorneys Edmund A. Allcock and Keshav Jha, representing three Boston condominium associations located across the street from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court to compel the City of Boston to enforce its noise ordinance. The parties are awaiting a decision from the Court on a Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

As reported in the Boston Globe, the City of Boston noise ordinance, which prohibits all noise above 70 decibels, has not been enforced by the City of Boston against the picketers of the UNITE HERE Local 26 labor union, who have been picketing outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel since October 3, 2018, every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sound readings taken every day from inside the condominiums (across the street) have registered sounds at above 120 decibels, as a result of the continuous drum beat, whistles, horns, vuvuzelas, megaphone shouting, and other sound amplification methods employed by the union picketers.  Studies suggest that chronic exposure to such decibel levels can result in permanent hearing loss as well as a myriad of other health effects.

Residents have submitted complaints to City of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Councilman Ed Flynn, the Boston Police Department, the Department of Public Works, and the Air Pollution Control Commission. These complaints have gone unanswered and the City has refused to do anything to reduce the noise outside of the condominiums or enforce the noise ordinance.

The harmful noise levels reach residents who live as high as the 22nd Floor, one of whom stated in an affidavit filed with the Court that he has incurred significant expenses in hotel bills in a desperate attempt to escape the noise.  Another resident, a retired cardiologist, living on the 12th Floor, filed an affidavit stating that he is worried about the health of his wife who experienced a heart attack a few years ago.

Residents from other nearby condominiums or other condominiums and apartment buildings in the vicinity of striking hotel workers banging drums and playing musical instruments twelve hours a day have also complained to the City. A doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who works overnight shifts treating cancer patients, testified that he has been unable to sleep during the day in his condominium due to the picketers constant drumbeat, and that it is affecting his performance on the job, to wit: the treatment of cancer patients.

The most frustrating aspect of the whole situation is that the Condominiums and its residents attempted to reach out politically to City and community leaders in an effort to balance the first amendment rights of Union picketers with the rights of nearby residents to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. The Condominiums are sympathetic to the Union picketers and their cause, they just wish they could protest or picket without banging on drums or screaming into megaphones or playing other musical instruments 12 hours a day, every day.  Unfortunately, the political and community leaders have continuously responded that: “advocating for or protecting the interests of luxury condo owners are not among their highest priorities”.

It is unfortunate political and community leaders feel that the residents of the City of Boston must bow to their own political interests. It is further unfortunate that our political and community leaders would single out a segment of the residential community (i.e. “downtown condo owners”) as unworthy of protection of the laws.  The characterization is also categorically untrue.  For example, one of the properties most affected by the noise from the picketers is a faith based affordable housing retirement home.  Many of its residents have complained as well.

These same political and community leaders have been heavily involved in Boston’s Downtown residential renaissance. Most of the downtown condo residents pay high real estate taxes and have little impact on City services, i.e. schools.  It does not take much to figure out that with a union involved, political interests are at play, but political interests should never override and surpass the enforcement and adherence to the laws.  It is ironic, especially as the City politicians and community leaders have seemingly allowed for the construction of more and more condominiums and apartment buildings in recent years.  If the community leaders and City Politicians do not currently “represent the interests of condo owners”, they certainly may want to think about that in the future given the amount of condominiums being built in Boston.

We implore every condominium resident, property manager and/or service provider in this State of Massachusetts to advocate on behalf of your fellow condo owners by contacting the relevant City of Boston officials and asking them not to discriminate in the enforcement of laws against condo owners.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh can be contacted by telephone. His direct dial is (617) 635-3151.  His e-mail is MAYOR@BOSTON.GOV.

Boston City Councilman Ed Flynn can be contacted by telephone, his direct dial is 617-635-3203. His e-mail is ed.flynn@BOSTON.GOV.

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross can be contracted by telephone at 617-343-4500. His email is MEDIARELATIONS@PD.BOSTON.GOV.

The Air Pollution Control Commission can be contacted at 617-635-3850 APCC@BOSTON.GOV

If you have any questions about this article or the enforcement of city noise ordinances, please do not hesitate to contact us at eallcock@meb.com or kjha@meeb.com.  You may also be interested in the media coverage that is developing and continues to develop around this story.  Links to Boston Globe and Channel 10 and 7 news stories are below.

Media Coverage:

Boston Globe, Residents sue over a racket at the Ritz, https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/11/09/residents-sue-over-racket-ritz/RCg6LRPL4HQds71cEnOaxL/story.html

NBC 10 Boston, Noise Associated with Boston Hotel Strike Leads to Complaints, https://www.nbcboston.com/news/local/Noise-Associated-with-Hotel-Strike-Leads-to-Complaints-500182011.html

7 News Boston, Residents Living Near Hotel Strikes File Noise Complaint Lawsuit Against City of Boston, https://whdh.com/news/residents-living-near-hotel-strikes-file-noise-complaint-lawsuit-against-city-of-boston/