This essay documents New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s “war on noise,” which he declared in 1935 and waged throughout his three terms in office. For La Guardia, noise was a symptom and even a cause of urban disorder, which flourished during the Great Depression and required a new set of strategies to bring under control. These included New York’s first comprehensive noise ordinance, increased policing and surveillance, and, ultimately, the reconfiguration of urban space by city officials and urban planners as a way to contain the threat of social and political upheaval. The war on noise changed not only how citizens sounded in the context of cities but also how they lived in them on the level of spatial practice, and as such it provided a blueprint for later quality of life campaigns spearheaded by Mayors Rudolf Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.


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pp. 733-760
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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