For years the North Fork has been a calm, quiet oasis where people come to relax and rejoice in the area’s serene splendor. A beautiful semi-rural sanctuary that is just close enough to many luxuries, preventing you from feeling isolated from the world. However, over the past few years, this region is changing into the suburban hellscape many residents had hoped to avoid, and the most destructive force is noise pollution from landscaping equipment such as gasoline-powered leaf blowers and chain saws.
As a student, I moved back home in March 2020. I had anticipated that there would be challenges to online learning and working. However, I did not realize that my once quiet neighborhood would sound like the middle of an industrial construction site six or even seven days a week. I found myself under the daily assault of weed whacking, leaf blowing, chain saws cutting, stump grinding and lawnmowers (designed for large fields, not quarter-acre lots) beginning as early as 7 a.m. and running until the sun went down. The noise from these machines was so loud at times we could feel our house shake. At first, I thought, maybe it’s just spring cleaning and the noise will be over soon. But then came summer, fall, winter and now back to spring. The noise has not stopped!
We cannot continue to ignore the drastic rise in noise pollution from landscaping equipment, especially when so many individuals spend more time living, working and learning in their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We no longer see residents mowing their own lawns for an hour on a Saturday morning. We now have industrial landscaping equipment operating chronically, excessively and for hours on end, destroying individuals’ ability to enjoy, work, learn or merely exist peacefully in their own homes!
Ultimately, just as landscaping companies and property owners have a right to maintain their property as they see fit, they can no longer be permitted to do so at the expense of surrounding residents.
The Southold Town Board recently heard from the landscaping community on this issue but has failed to hear from the many other stakeholders affected by the noise pollution property maintenance generates. Page 154 of the recently adopted comprehensive plan explicitly states the town’s intention to decrease the impact of noise pollution in residential neighborhoods. This plan took 11 years to develop, with extensive input from our community, and the Town Board now has a responsibility to implement its goals.
I believe we as a community must urge the Southold Town Board to take legislative action and restrict the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. Many communities across the United States, including Southampton Village and East Hampton Town, have successfully implemented legislation to combat noise pollution from leaf blowers and other lawn care equipment. I hope Southold Town will follow their lead and take action before we get overrun by the increasing suburbanization of the North Fork. If we lose the quiet and the symphony of our life here becomes a constant assault of power tools, the most magical component of the North Fork will disappear forever.
If you are concerned about this issue and want to see a change, contact the Southold Town Board members and express your concerns. You can find their contact information online.
The author is a 2016 graduate of Greenport High School and a 2020 graduate of Union College, where she completed a degree in biology and music. While at Union College she was selected as a University Innovation Fellow by Stanford University.