I Like Mike!

photo: Nicole Craine for The New York Times

This is 70-year-old Mike Edison, a retired advertising sales executive who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York.

Mike is a great example of persistence and the power one individual can have to effect change.

Manhattan is known for great theater, great buildings, great museums, and… great noise. Stepping outside the relative insulation of a New York hotel, one is immediately bathed in a clatter of trucks, whistles, barking dogs, construction. Anything that can make noise lives in this sliver of a New York burrow along with roughly 1.6 million in population.

Mike “has been jolted awake before dawn by jackhammers and screeching delivery trucks. He asked politely for those responsible to stop,” The New York Times reports (June 4). He dialed the city’s 311 hotline. He fired off letters to the police and other city agencies. Nothing.

So, Mike, with no legal training, took a different approach: he sued… a construction company, a real estate developer, and the Rite Aid drugstore chain.

“He has also threatened to sue a half-dozen other companies including Starbucks and Con Edison, the giant utility,” The Times adds.

While his legal suits have yet to reach the courts, the threat of a suit has been enough to get the attention of his noisy neighbors.

“ ‘This is effective,” Mike says, “it actually works — all the other stuff won’t.”

“Noise complaints to 311,” The Times continues, “have soared by 29 percent to nearly 438,000 last year from about 338,000 in 2014, according to an analysis of city data by OpenTheBooks.com, a nonprofit watchdog group, and The New York Times.

“The top complaints were about construction-related activities, music and parties, loud talking, banging and pounding sounds, barking dogs and idling engines and honking.”

While his complaints to the CM & Associates Construction Management gave him some relief, it wasn’t long before the jackhammers and cement trucks were back again, noisier than ever.

After complaining again in an e-mail, the construction company wrote back offering him a hotel room at your expense.”

Biiig mistake.

With that, Mike went to Manhattan’s small claims court to sue CM and Todd Cohen the project developer for Icon Reality.

The court doesn’t require an attorney and the paperwork is simple. And while carefully preparing arguments for court, Mike says he never got to use them. An attorney for CM and Icon settled!

But here’s why Mike deserves an award for citizenship.

Not only did he threaten to sue the companies in small claims for himself and his neighbors, he gave half the settlement money he received to a local soup kitchen and several nonprofit groups!

“ ‘I don’t think you should make money on the suffering of other people,” he told the Times. ‘A lot of people around here were upset by the noise.’ ”

But that’s not the end of Mike’s story.

“His next target was Rite Aid after he had been woken up numerous times by delivery trucks unloading at the pharmacy on the corner. He complained, and a lawyer for Rite Aid assured him that it would not happen again, Mr. Edison said. It did.

“That time, he said, he tried to reason with the workers. He asked them to keep it down. ‘They laughed at me,’ he said. ‘I filed the suit the next day.’

“Rite Aid offered to settle before the case was heard. He told the lawyer to donate the settlement money to the soup kitchen. All he wanted was for the noise to stop — and it did.

“Since then, Mr. Edison has created a form letter he uses to threaten to sue companies over noise. Starbucks and Walgreens Boots Alliance, which operates the nearby Duane Reade, and the trucking services they use were sent letters over noisy deliveries. So was Con Edison after metal plates on the street came loose during repair work and clanked whenever cars drove over them.”

The result: “ ‘Every one of these guys I went after stopped,’ Mike said. ‘That’s the amazing thing to me.’ ”

No, Mike, that’s the power and persistence of one individual making a difference.

Maybe Mike can take some of that power to Washington. We could use his help in stopping a lot of the noise and get something useful done.

3 comments… add one
  • Dr. David Inman June 12, 2019, 9:22 am

    Great story on persistence and definitely making a difference particularly against big corporations. Its nice getting away from all the crazy in D.C.

  • Gary Lange June 12, 2019, 7:23 pm

    Good find! We need more “Mike’s” in the world.

  • bettina eckerle June 21, 2019, 6:13 am

    Hi Mike–
    I have lived in NYC for the better part of my life, being from Europe originally. I truly believe that people who fight for civility and decency are the true heroes.

    After having lived in my coop for more than 20 years, my new neighbor’s noise makes my space uninhabitable, with his lifestyle he practically squeezed me out. It is so overwhelming that it feels as if there is no room for me left. I am in the process of suing because I don’t see any other choice, and wanted to tell you personally how grateful I was when I saw your article in the New York Times. I am also notorious for my tenacity. At least I have to try to find some balance and fairness.

    Thank you very much for taking this on.

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