Sound Reasoning: Pier 17’s rooftop speaker system works so well, Howard Hughes mulls putting it in Riverdeck bar

The Howard Hughes Corporation is considering expanding a state-of-the-art sound system installed at its rooftop concert venue to other parts of the entertainment complex, after locals complained about noise coming from its Riverdeck watering hole.
Howard Hughes Corporation


The Howard Hughes Corporation is mulling over outfitting a street-level bar at its Pier 17 entertainment complex with the same state-of-the-art sound system it installed on the rooftop to protect neighbors from pop music emanating from the pier’s top-deck concert venue, after locals in nearby apartment buildings mistook music coming from the bar for live tunes spilling out of the alfresco auditorium, according to one Howard Hughes honcho.

“We are in the process of evaluating a similar sound technology for sound throughout the project,” said Saul Scherl, president of the developer’s New York operations.

Pier 17’s rooftop concert venue is equipped with a high-tech “adaptive” loudspeaker technology, which gives the developer the ability to make real-time adjustments over where sound is projected, and — more importantly — where it isn’t.

The Seaport developer spent big bucks to ensure audience members were treated to a full concert experience, without subjecting locals in apartment buildings overlooking the venue to unsolicited music, according to a sound engineer who worked on the project.

“The Howard Hughes Corporation spent significant resources — time, effort, and money — in developing a state-of-the-art sound system   designed to ensure minimum impact on the community,” said Sam Berkow, of SIA Acoustics.

Select community members were invited to preview the system’s capabilities at a sound test on July 2, and the trial run proved that the cutting-edge speakers worked as advertised, shielding folks on the street and in surrounding buildings from the racket on the roof, according to one local civic guru.

“They were able to direct the sound to within six feet of where they wanted it,” said Paul Hovitz, vice chairman of Community Board 1 and a resident of nearby South Bridge Towers. “It’s amazing!”

But the sound test alone wasn’t enough to sway some Seaport skeptics, and one local preservationist expressed concern that things may not run as smoothly come showtime.

“At the rehearsal I spoke to one sound engineer and he said the sound was set at much lower volumes than the system was capable of doing,” said Michael Kramer, a member of Save our Seaport and a longtime critic of the Howard Hughes Corporation’s redevelopment of the seaside historic district.

And Kramer’s fears appeared to be well-founded, after nearby resident sent in a video she took from the roof of her Water Street apartment building, which seemed to record music pumping out of the radiant concert venue during a Carrie Underwood performance on July 4, suggesting that Howard Hughes’s vaunted sound system wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

“Outside, it was surprisingly loud, given the claims that no sound would leave the perimeter of the Pier 17 roof,” said Caroline Miller, who took the video.

And another neighbor confirmed that she was peeved by the loud musing coming from the pier that evening.

“It was not terrible but it was significant and annoying,” said Zette Eamons.

But on closer examination, there seemed to be some issues with Miller’s recording. The video was taken at 9:41 pm, about 20 minutes after the curtain dropped at the Independence Day concert, as confirmed by two separate concertgoers.

And the song being played in the video was not a Carrie Underwood song, but rather Selena Gomez’s immortal “It Ain’t Me,” which was not included in the concert’s playlist, according to Howard Hughes spokeswoman Cristina Carlson.

As it turned out, it wasn’t Pier 17’s high-tech sound system that locals were hearing at all, but rather the relatively low-tech pop-fueled speakers hooked up to its Riverdeck watering hole, according to Scherl.

The Howard Hughes honcho promised that the developer would try to make things right with the community, and said that SIA Acoustics would be kept on to continue sound monitoring around the neighborhood for the next few weeks.

Community members are also encouraged to call Howard Hughes at (646) 822–6990 whenever the sound of an uninvited chart topper wafts into their living rooms, Scherl said.

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