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Disturbing Sounds, Delightful Antidotes

We’ve become so accustomed to noise we don’t realize how disruptive it is.

It’s a muggy summer afternoon in Manhattan, the kind of day when your skin feels like it’s dripping after a few seconds outside. As the sun makes its way out from the gray haze above the rooftops, you step into the nearest café to beat the heat and escape the shrill, screeching ambulance and police sirens, pounding automobile tires and loud honks above the chatter of people on cell phones, their voices getting louder to fight the noise.

Inside, there’s some relief from the heat, but you’re greeted by a new jarring swash of sounds: clanking ice cubes from the blender, bellowing drums and monotone discordant vocals of a rap song blasting so loud you’d have to be deaf to be able to read your magazine. The words on the page dance, mixing incoherently with sounds.
The guy sitting across from me is not annoyed. He’s working intently on his laptop – with earplugs on.

We’ve become so accustomed to noise we don’t realize how disruptive it is. But noise pollution has been the subject of serious conversation and laws. What’s more, medical researchers have linked excessive noise to many health risks.

Here’s what they say:

Environmental noise is one of the major causes of disturbed sleep. When sleep disruption becomes chronic, the results are mood changes ….and other long-term effects on health and well-being.

According to the EPA and World Health Organization (WHO), excessive noise is associated with more than documented hearing impairments. It’s a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, stress, emotional instability, sleep disturbances, and cardiovascular disease. In a lengthy article published in the Southern Medical Journal (2007) medical researchers concluded: “Noise acts as a non-specific biologic stressor eliciting reactions that prepare the body for a “flight or flight” response. … noise can trigger both endocrine and autonomic nervous system responses that affect the cardiovascular system and…may be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”

Noise is known to disrupt circadian sleep rhythms: “Environmental noise is one of the major causes of disturbed sleep. When sleep disruption becomes chronic, the results are mood changes ….and other long-term effects on health and well-being.” (Lisa Goines, Dr. Louis Hagler, Southern Medical Journal, 2007)

“Noise is an environmental stressor that stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis, leading to increased blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol. ,… noise may also increase diabetes risk. Investigators report … long-term exposure to residential road traffic noise was, in fact, associated with increased diabetes incidence… (Nicole Wendee, Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb 2013.)

But there are remedies.
Some simple local respites work wonders…

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Central Park

Did you know that Central Park has eight areas designated “quiet zones” where music is prohibited?

• Bethesda Terrace (mid-park, 72nd Street)
• The Conservatory Garden (really three gardens in one, 5th Avenue off 105th Street)
• The East Green, a tranquil area of beautiful blooming trees stretching from 67th – 76th Street,
• The Conservatory Water, a peaceful pond to watch small boats sail,
• Sheep Meadow (off 66th Street)
• Shakespeare Garden (the west park near 79th Street)

For more glamorous, tranquil moments try:

• Strawberry Fields, memorial to John Lennon diagonally opposite where Lennon lived
• Turtle Pond (mid-park between 79th and 80th Street) where turtles, fish, and frogs frolic.

The Cloisters

Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park, New York (Washington Heights)

If you haven’t been to the Cloisters, visiting during the summer can be a serene, otherworldly experience. The Cloisters transports you back to medieval times with exquisite art and architecture and beautifully-landscaped reconstructed medieval gardens.

Buying a ticket provides same-day admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Open 7 days a week year-round, except some holidays.
During summer months, the Cloisters closes at 7:30 pm Fridays.

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Eastern Parkway, Flatbush and Washington Avenues, Prospect Park, Brooklyn

The highlights of this tranquil monastic botanical retreat include:

• Japanese Hill and Pond gardens,
• cherry blossom gardens,
• paintings by Mizue Sawano, inspired by the flora,
• the popular Cranford Rose Gardens (1000 types of roses are cultivated)
• the tropical pavilion,
• lilac gardens….
• the Shakespeare garden with impressionistic colors and textures…,

This is a delightful place to visit, particularly during spring and summer.
March–October
Tuesday–Friday: 8 a.m.–6 p.m.
Saturday, Sunday: 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Closed Mondays except Memorial and Columbus Day

These tranquil staycations just outside the city are worth traveling for:

Greenporter Hotel

Front Street, Greenport, NY

Near some more pretentious neighbors at the end of your LIRR trip or Hampton’s Jitney ride is a quiet quaint town on the North Fork of Long Island. You may know of Greenport if you’re a wine aficionado, (the North Fork is famous for its vineyards). This charming, unspoiled agricultural town has both organic farms and a lavender farm (“Lavender by the Bay”), along with a beautiful pebble beach that’s been featured in many fashion magazines, several organic farms. You can spend a peaceful day kayaking, berry picking, or sailing.

The sustainable philosophy extends to the locally-sourced food and wine and home-baked muffins served at a complimentary continental breakfast.

The Greenporter Hotel, a 3-star green-certified hotel, is walking distance from the village and a bike ride away from the vineyards and beach. It’s also a short walk from the LIRR and Hampton Jitney. This boutique, “retro” hotel has 30 guestrooms: reasonably-priced, comfortable, and unpretentious. The sustainable philosophy extends to the locally-sourced food and wine and home-baked muffins served at a complimentary continental breakfast. The Greenporter offers guests on-site cooking classes. The hotel prides itself on-green policies: uses organic cleaning products, has a mini-greenhouse which furnishes fresh herbs for dishes and cocktails year-round.

Mohonk Mountain House Resort

This resort is worth the beautiful ride up on the Hudson (MetroNorth). An all-inclusive family-owned Victorian castle resort hideaway built in 1869 in the Hudson Valley 90 miles north of New York City, it sprawls on 40,000 gorgeous wooded acres. Upscale, pricey, this staycation offers a full menu of activities including yoga, meditation, fitness classes, boating, golf, tennis, horseback riding (extra charge) and hiking (with 85 miles of trails). The geo-thermally temperature-controlled award-winning spa with mineral pools was ranked #1 Resort Spa in the US by Conde Nast reader and one of the top 10 green spas in the world by Organic Spa magazine).

Another plus here is abundant, locally-sourced meals that include vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.

Their signature “Mohonk Red” massage combines different massage styles with pampering aromas of evergreen and witch hazel. Another plus here is abundant, locally-sourced meals that include vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Some rooms have rocking chairs and private balconies that overlook the lake. The resort has a meditation and mindfulness program.

Lisa Stahl

Lisa Stahl, a native New Yorker, has authored many articles that graced the cover pages of magazines and websites. She’s the author of two distance-learning courses on fashion and has contributed substantial research and content on politics and foreign policy to three books by a political analyst and adviser to Hillary Clinton. Lisa’s achievements include an MA in English with honors from Columbia University. She also studied piano at Juilliard.

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