The other day I was enjoying a quiet bike ride along the Hudson River, near the Sleepy Hollow lighthouse where some sort of photo shoot was going on. My reverie was shattered by the cacophony of three “cigarette” boats (long, narrow speedboats) roaring upriver from the Tarrytown Boat Club as they raced each other at frightening speeds. These boats have huge, high-revving race-car-class inboard engines, and are designed without exhaust mufflers to make as much noise as possible. I was once hiking above the cliffs in Rockland State Park and heard one of these boats all the way as it traveled south from Haverstraw to the Tappan Zee Bridge, nearly ten miles!
Tarrytown has an ordinance prohibiting “unnecessary noise” but it’s essentially unenforceable for transient events like loud motorcycles (especially Harleys), cars with “tuned” exhaust systems, and tractor-trailers using their “Jake brakes” as they pass through the Village at night, sometimes even setting off car alarms.
Then there is the nearly incessant Summer whine of garden tools with their dirty, 2-stroke engines: brush trimmers, hedge clippers, chain saws, and – outside of the prohibited summer months – leaf blowers. Add the helicopters that routinely monitor the MNR tracks and the single-engine planes that use the Hudson River airspace as a highway since it’s outside airline flight paths. Throw in the sounds of “boomer” car drivers sharing their all-about-the-bass music with an unappreciative public at gut-thumping levels (also an unenforceable violation in our Village), and the summer sounds have become a constant reminder of how much our society extolls and forgives the use of internal-combustion engines – at least for the time being.
Last weekend I was returning from the TaSH Farmer’s Market , and passed by our Mayor’s house. He was mowing his lawn, and we had a nice chat over the front hedge without his having to even shut off the lawn mower. How? It was a cordless electric mower, creating only a soft buzz as it worked (and mulched the clippings back into the lawn as nutrients.) That will be my next mower, for sure, joining my other great battery-powered garden tools. I already have a plug-in hybrid car that gives me enough pure-electric miles to do local trips. Electric cars are so quiet at low speeds that they have to add a whirring sound to them so pedestrians can hear them approach.
My bottom line: There is a time and place for loud, exciting stuff, I think, and I want to be able to choose when and where I indulge in that, such as a Mavericks concert at the Tarrytown Music Hall, or a free outdoor Jazz Forum Arts event, or our July 4th fireworks.
With rare exceptions – heavy-duty chain saws and portable generators, for instance – there are electric equivalents for just about any gas-driven tool or equipment. Full EVs like the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt, and the pricy Tesla line have ranges of hundreds of miles, and the steady build-out of high-speed charging stations are reducing “range anxiety” even further. The City of White Plains has introduced electric buses, and the municipality’s departments must prove why any specific newly-requested vehicle cannot be electric or hybrid.
Our nation’s love affair with gasoline is waning, as it must for us to stave off the worst of the climate crisis. I look forward to the summer day when all I can hear are the birds, the bees, the breeze in the trees and the sound of children playing!