They're Sounding Off Against Horn Honking on Hudson Street

Peter Rooney, who lives at 135 Hudson Street, reminds drivers on his street that it's illegal to honk their horns merely out of impatience. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Sep. 23, 2013

They heard a few honks too many.

Tribeca residents living above the epicenter of Holland Tunnel gridlock are taking to the streets—Hudson Street, that is—in hopes of halting the incessant and inevitably unproductive honking that goes on outside their windows.

During a Friday afternoon rush hour late last month, three residents of 135 Hudson Street stood at corners near their building, with placards held aloft. “No Honk­ing…It’s Il­legal,” the signs read—and in smaller letters: “Unless it’s an emergency.”

“All summer, if your windows are open, you get no peace, just constant, constant noise. And I get irritated,” said Jill Godmilow, a recently retired film prof­essor who was standing with her sign and whistle at the corner of North Moore and Hudson streets. “Finally, I got irritated enough to organize this.”

The afternoon demonstration, she said, marked the beginning of what the group hopes will become a weekly quest for a quieter street, with more neighbors showing their support.

It may sound quixotic in the face of an endless parade of creeping traffic full of impatient drivers, but the outcome already looked promising.

“I think there’s a lot less honking today because we’re here,” Godmilow said. “Momentarily it’s helping out.”

A block north, Godmilow’s neighbor, Erica Rooney, stood facing traffic with her own sign, and basking in the encouragement of drivers.

“I get so many ‘thumbs up’ from people in cars, which really surprises me,” said Rooney, whose husband, Peter Rooney, was also demonstrating. “Buses, trucks, taxis, liveries—and solo drivers in their big SUVs who shouldn’t be driving in Manhattan at all.”

Rooney pointed to one of the biggest honk-inducing problems: The intersection of Beach and Hudson, where cars exiting the Holland Tunnel rotary cross paths with the thicket of tunnel-bound traffic traveling north on Hudson.

“This intersection on Friday afternoons will be a constant din of horns honking until the Port Authority decides to change the exit [during rush hour],” she said. The group is advocating for rerouting the exiting traffic during the busiest hours.

Standing on Hudson, the trio was hardly lacking in advice from passing drivers and pedestrians.

“One man said to me, ‘You know, you can do citizen arrest.’ But I don’t know how to do that,” Rooney ex­plained. “And a woman asked me if I’m taking down license plates. I said, ‘Yes, I am. A few.”

She pointed to three plate numbers she had written on her sign. “It’s hard to tell who honked,” she admitted.

Godmilow said she expects new re­cruits to be out on upcoming Fridays, next time with petitions calling on the city to install “No Honking” signs.

“We’ll organize more people who are affected by it,” she said. “We’ll try to get some action going.”

But the timing is not in the residents’ favor. This year the city began tak­ing down the red-and-blue signs that remind motorists that the penalty for non-emergency horn-honking is $350.

According to Department of Trans­portation spokesman Scott Gastel, the signs add to roadside clutter and are ineffective. “There are 1.3 million signs on our streets,” he wrote in an email to the Trib, “and excessive signs are distractions for motorists that can diminish the overall effectiveness of Speed Limit, One Way or Do Not Enter signs.” Gastel said that there is no documentation to support that the signs make a difference.

According to the NYPD, 206 drivers received summonses in 2012 for “unnecessary use of horn.”

“Honking. It does no good,” a cab driver said, looking out his window and reading the sign that Peter Rooney held high. Then, as if on cue, came three loud blasts.The driver shook his head. “There’s every kind of people,” he said.

For information, write to Jill Godmilow at


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