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Greenport musicians speak out against proposed noise ordinance

As Greenport Village attempts to reckon with its growing popularity, a controversial noise ordinance proposal has forced some local musicians to ask: Is Greenport risking its very soul?

Dozens of local musicians and business owners spoke out against the proposed code, which would set the decibel limit to 65 dBA until midnight in commercial areas. Businesses would be require to obtain music permits and the proposal would add teeth to the current fine structure, increasing fines to $2,500 for repeat offenders and the risk of permit revocation.

“The fact that you guys are trying to push a noise ordinance through in a year that couldn’t be any more difficult for musicians or restaurants is absolutely unacceptable for me,” said Jon Divello, a local musician who said that while he’s fortunate to have a day job, many local musicians rely on income from gigs to make a living.

“Little by little by little…everything that makes [Greenport] great is slowly disappearing,” he said, accusing the village board of rushing to adopt code without adequate research and analysis.

Local musician Julia King even set up her own experiment ahead of Thursday’s public hearing. Using a decibel meter, she said she stood at varying distances as she sang a cappella and was able to reach 85 dBA from 30 feet away. “To think that Greenport on a Saturday night after 12 a.m. is going to be at 65 dBA is insane,” she said.

Village officials began crafting the code after receiving numerous complaints from residents in 2019. The owners of Claudio’s were also fined $3,500 that summer after being ticketed for a series of noise violations and certificate of occupancy violations that have since been mitigated.

According to Tora Matsuoka, who manages Claudio’s, they have been working with an independent sound consultant, installed sound mitigation panels and upgraded their sound system to mitigate sound leakage from their waterfront property.

The village Business Improvement District also submitted a petition with more than 300 signatures urging the board to table action on the ordinance while they consult with sound experts of their own.

Marina DeLuca, another musician, said the proposed code is unclear and has the potential to damage the local music scene.

“If this amendment goes into effect, the gigs that most of these artists rely on are not going to be able to exist anymore,” she said.

While Ms. DeLuca said she hasn’t always been a proponent of all of the changes across the North Fork, she said a growing music scene has been a silver lining as venues like Green Hill Kitchen and others offer an outlet for young musicians.

Pastor Gary Primm echoed that idea and worries the code could also disenfranchise gospel music events, which he helped organize at Green Hill last fall.

Several residents spoke out in favor of the noise ordinance, arguing that loud music emanating from the downtown area keeps them awake at night and they often must shut their windows and turn on an air conditioner to block out the sound.

Village resident Michael Osinski said redrafting the proposal is a waste of time and money and urged the board to pass it as-is. “We all know that there are three or four egregious violators making noise in this village. They’ve been doing it for years and getting away with it,” he said.

But business owners — even ones that don’t regularly have live music — said the current code is unworkable. Brent Pelton, who owns American Beech and the historic Stirling Square property, said he’d be concerned that noise from his outdoor dining area after 8 p.m. could exceed the decibel limit.

Green Hill Kitchen owner Christoph Mueller said it’s important to get the code right. 

“The ordinance that’s on the table right now will squash music altogether,” he said. “To get it right is not a waste of time. It’s the right thing to do.”

After nearly two hours, the board voted to close the hearing and said the feedback was important from residents, musicians and business owners alike.

“It’s extremely useful. This is what we’ve been looking for all along,” trustee Julia Robins said.

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said it was never his intention to shut down the music scene. “This was something just to control things before they got out of hand,” he said. “There’s no way that I want to see anybody go out of business, move out or close down and not be able to operate. That’s what’s made it so great and made it really come to life.”