A Better Way?
A longtime resident of Fox Point says the city of Providence needs to balance allowing the increasing number of concerts at India Point Park with protecting neighbors who have to endure - for hours - sound that often exceeds the city’s noise ordinance. This week, he talks about how the quality of life in a neighborhood where he’s lived for 45 years has changed recently. Plus: an apology from the Providence Commissioner of Public Safety on how a noise complaint was handled last month.
Click here to see portions of the August 24 concert that initiated Hlynsky's call to the police.
On a summer night, it is a prime place to listen to a concert: on or near the water at Bold Point Park in East Providence, or just across the river in India Point Park.
The sound travels well across the water - a lot farther than you might think.
Hlynksy: “The vision of this park as a concert venue has evolved slowly over the years and frankly, it’s started to become annoying. And it’s annoyed a lot of the residents of India Point Park.”
Dennis Hlynski has lived in the Fox Point neighborhood of Providence - just over the highway from India Point Park - for 45 years. He’s owned the same house since 1980. Hlynsky said concert promoters have had a tin ear when it comes to taking the residents here into consideration.
Hlynsky: “Unfortunately I feel as though the perception of this park, and that park over there, is that it’s isolated from the rest of the community. India Point Park is on the other side of the highway. It’s Rhode Island, that’s halfway across the state. Making sound in the park is not seen to affect the neighborhood.”
Hlynsky has watched a proliferation of bands come to India Point Park and Bold Point over the past several years. The numbers tells the story: 10 bands played in India Point this past summer, up from just five in 2018; 17 bands played at Bold Point Park in 2019.
The Fox Point Neighborhood Association says the reaction from its members has been mixed: some like the music, saying it’s part of city life, while others find it annoying or simply too loud.
Hlysnki has been generally supportive of the festivals and concerts, saying they have made Providence a more desirable city.
Hlynsky: “I think the concert series is a wonderful thing. I think using these parks for cultural events and organizing cultural events, or bringing the Cape Verde Community together for their annual fest here, is fantastic. But I think we could do a better job of designing these kinds of events.”
It was a concert on Aug. 24th at India Point - that organizers estimate drew 3,500 people - which prompted him to finally call the police.
Hlynsky: “The police said they’re permitted until 10 o’clock there’s nothing we can do about it. They said: it’s loud.”
Hlynsky, a veteran professor at RISD who teaches film and video has his own decibel meter.
Hlynsky: “That 83 db - spiking at 83 db. That’s the sound of a locomotive, a diesel engine, passing at 40 miles an hour 100 feet away.”
We wanted to know if having a permit from the city gave the bands at India Point Park a pass when it comes to abiding by the city’s noise ordinance. Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said: no, and apologized to Hlynksi for not sending an officer out to check the noise level of the band and issue a warning, if necessary.
Pare told the Hummel Report quote: “There are no exemptions for noise…we could have done something. We apologize for (Hlynsky) having to endure the noise. If there’s a complaint in the future, we will send our meter out there to document the level, because it is an ordinance violation.
While the city has jurisdiction over India Point, it has no control over Bold Point in East Providence, a short distance across the Providence River.
Hlynsky: “Sound does not know municipal barriers. The air if a public utility. And soundwaves ride the air.”
When the promoters pitched having a series of concerts here to city officials in 2016 they offered a much different scenario.
The Hummel Report obtained minutes of a meeting where the promoter said: “The sound will be aimed across the Bay toward(s) the Port of Providence and I-95.”
That never happened. Instead the stage was turned 90 degrees to the north, with sound aiming directly at Hlynsky’s neighborhood.
Hlynsky: “Basically I was told that if I didn’t like it I could leave me house. I’ve been there for 40 years and it’s my home.
The good news for neighbors is that the concert series is scheduled to move to the south next summer, at a bigger parcel of land, further away from residents in Providence.
But the concerts at India Point aren’t going anywhere.
Hlynsky: “The problem is when the hill gets seen as a kind of an amphitheater. The stage is put up on the dock, or right in front of the dock, and the speakers are pointed up the hill toward the neighborhood and in those instances what happens is that the long waves, the bass and the drums and subsonics, tend to travel a lot farther than the high frequencies. So what you hear in your house, is basically a thump, thump, thump. And sometimes it’s six hours on a Saturday when you’re home.”
So Hlynksy has a few suggestions for city officials to consider before issuing permits next summer.
Hlynski: “I would really like to think that there is a redesign possible that doesn’t affect the neighborhood.”
One possibility would be to point speakers parallel to the highway and not toward it and the neighborhoods beyond. Another would be to the move the concerts a couple of hundred yards east to where this soccer field is. He says there is much more room and it would absorb the sound better.
Hlynsky: “I can’t fault anybody who wants to design a concert. I just would like them to consider where the sound is going. We need to consider the quality of life in the neighborhoods and sound and sound intrusion into those neighborhoods is becoming more and more of a problem as these concert venues become larger, and more abundant.”
And he made this offer to the city officials and promoters next time there is a concert like this one at either of the parks.
Hlynsky: “I say come sit in my living room, come sit in my back yard. I have to close the windows; if I sit in the back yard I can’t have company over because it interfered with talking.”
In Providence, Jim Hummel for The Hummel Report.