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Carter's View

Open-air sightseeing buses in the city will have to begin using headphone systems instead of loudspeakers beginning next year, according to an article by Albert Amateau in this week's edition of The Villager.

The City Council last week passed the legislation, which Mayor Bloomberg is expected to sign, that will require operators of unenclosed tourist buses to phase in headphone systems over the next five years, the article said.

"We're very pleased and we're grateful to Councilmembers Gale Brewer and Margaret Chin, who sponsored the legislation, and to Speaker Christine Quinn for her support," said Barbara Backer, an organizer of Our Streets Our Lives. Backer said the loudspeaker systems on unenclosed buses create constant and pervasive noise on Bleecker St. where she lives. As well as the Village, her group advocates for Tribeca, Chinatown, Chelsea and Clinton, plus Brooklyn near the Brooklyn Bridge.

The new law would require for open-air bus operators to phase in headphone systems, with at least 10 percent of their fleets equipped by July 1, 2011, at least 40 percent by July 2012, 60 percent by July 2013 and 80 percent by July 2014, the article said, adding that "By July 2015, every open-air sightseeing bus in an operator's fleet must be equipped with a sound system audible through headphones but not otherwise."

After the new law becomes effective next month, the article continued, no new licenses will be issued for open-air sightseeing buses unless they have headphone systems, adding that "The legislation calls for fines of between $200 and $750 per day for each bus not in compliance."

An earlier, proposed version of the legislation called for a 12-year phase-in period.

There are about 250 sightseeing buses citywide operated by 12 companies, according to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.