Staten Islanders Are Complaining That N.J. ‘Boom Parties’ Keep Them Up All Night

Staten Island residents are complaining about the steady thump-thump-thump from boom parties along the New Jersey waterfront that is keeping them awake at night.

New Jersey residents who live in Burlington and Camden county towns along the Delaware River have their own beef with Philadelphia for allowing late-night boom parties that are too loud and too long.

And Salem County residents frequently complain about noise coming across the bay from Delaware.

This has been yet another summer of discontent for thousands of residents who live in waterfront communities on both the east and west coast of New Jersey. For them, the sounds of summer are the annoying bass beats pulsating across the water from loudspeakers strapped to cars at illegal “boom” parties that occur up and down the Delaware waterfront.

“I’m not saying that people can’t play their music, but I just want some kind of middle ground where we can get some sleep,” said Jeff Stefan, a Gloucester County resident who started a Facebook page, “Inconsiderate Late-Night Philly Music,” that has 5,000 followers.

Staten Island residents have also been losing sleep. Last month, Staten Island elected officials, led by Richmond County District Attorney the Richmond County Michael McMahon, sent a letter to Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage asking the city to step up its efforts against what he called the “scourge” of boom parties.

“Although we acknowledge that the Elizabeth Police Department has made some efforts to address this issue to date, they unfortunately have been unsuccessful,” McMahon wrote. “We must urge you and them to do more to put an end to this scourge.”

Bollwage, through his spokeswoman, Ruby Contreras, said the city would cooperate, but did not provide specifics. Contreras said the city had issued 121 summonses for violations of the noise ordinance prior to the Staten Island letter, but could not say how many were for boom parties. Nor could she say how many summonses the city had written after Staten Island sent the letter.

Staten Island residents also point to a stretch of newly-redeveloped waterfront off High Street in Perth Amboy, where there are frequent boom parties. The parking lot of a warehouse on High Street has become a favorite spot for boom parties, residents say.

“It can happen anytime of the night, nine, ten, or one o’clock in the morning,” said one Staten Island resident, who asked that her name not be used. “The same people, and the same disjointed sounds. All of a sudden, you’ll be jolted out of bed.”

Perth Amboy police say they’ve responded to the warehouse four times since Aug. 31. They broke up the party and wrote summonses three times; there was no one there on the fourth visit on September 14, police said.

Perth Amboy spokeswoman Lisett Lebron said police are speaking to the owner of the property, Duke Realty, about improving security. “Our office will reach out to the property owners to identify what measures they have put in place for vehicles trespassing,” she said.

The warehouse is leased to a Chinese shipping company, 4PX Express, which is responsible for security. “The tenant has called police on various occasions,” said Gene Miller, a spokesman for Duke Realty. “Additionally, the tenant will be adding fencing to the property and is considering the addition of other security features.”

All cities and towns have noise ordinances that are designed to ensure peace and quiet, particularly at night. The thunder coming from stacks of speakers mounted onto cars clearly violates the standard nighttime 50 decibel limit, but when noise, no matter how loud, travels across state lines, enforcement becomes a problem.

New Jersey police have no jurisdiction in New York or Pennsylvania or Delaware, and vice-versa. The boom parties go on all night long on the Philadelphia side of the Delaware River, and there’s little anyone in New Jersey can do to stop it.

“My biggest fear is that somebody from New Jersey is going to cross the river and take matters into their own hands,” said Cinnaminson Police Chief Richard Calabrese. “Somebody is going to approach somebody, and somebody is going to get shot.”

Calabrese said the sonic blasts from Philly waterfront regularly rattle the windows in his town. “It happens every night when the weather is nice,” Calabrese said. “It’s only when the weather gets cold that our residents get a reprieve. But then Easter comes, the weather gets warmer, and the noise is back.”

Calabrese said he’s met numerous times with Philadelphia police brass and the city council to get them to do something, but the response has had a minimal effect, he said. Fines for violating the noise ordinance are cheap, ranging from $50 to $200, he said, and hardly a deterrent.

Philadelphia police spokesman Sgt. Eric Gripp said the department does have a Quality of Life patrol that focuses on “chronic nuisance gathering spots,” but these areas also draw a significant number of ATVs and dirt bikes. “This factor does contribute to a more mobile nuisance problem, and we must be fluid in our response to areas as they arise,” Gripp said.

“The Philadelphia Police Department is, and will continue, to dedicate resources to the issue of boom parties and cars,” Gripp said.

Beyond stiffer penalties and more aggressive enforcement, Calabrese said what’s needed is legislation that would allow police to take the boom cars off the streets. A trio of South Jersey legislators introduced a bill last week that would make boom cars a “public nuisance”—and gives municipalities the power to confiscate them.

The bill, S-3047, allows police to impound boom cars for seven days for a first offense, and 14 days for a repeat violation. The owner would be responsible for the costs of towing, storage and would have to pay a fee—either $500 or $750—to get the vehicle back. Unclaimed boom cars would be subject to auction after 30 days.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. James Beach (D-Burlington/Camden), Nisla I. Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester) and Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), contains a provision that, under certain circumstances, would allow municipalities to confiscate the vehicle and destroy it.

“We’ve had countless meetings with Philadelphia, but we are not getting the deep cooperation we need to stamp out the problem,” Singleton said. “We are going to very aggressive in trying to stamp this out. Too many families are having their quality of life ruined.”

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