Are some New Yorkers getting softer on Mister Softee?
Nearly 1,279 complaints about ice cream truck jingles were filed during the last 12 months, through Aug. 15, 2018, according to an analysis of 311 complaints by Localize.city, a website providing insights for every New York City address.
That represented a 20 percent decrease from the year before.
But there were specific areas across the boroughs where the Mister Softee song still gets a chilly reception.
“It’s apparent that ice cream trucks know their audience and are targeting parks and playgrounds — but families might not be totally cool about that,” said Localize.city data analyst Daniel Slutsky.
Clusters where residents are most sour on the songs
Localize.city’s data science team examined a year’s worth of complaints filed through July 30, 2018, and mapped out clusters of complaints within 1,760 feet of one another to find which areas were most plagued by the Mister Softee songs. Points within clusters were included only if they had complaints on at least five days.
The analysis uncovered 54 clusters, 42 of which were near parks or playgrounds, which is perhaps unsurprising given that the trucks often target kids.
The top three areas were in Jamaica, around Captain Tilly Park; a Manhattan corridor between Madison Square and Union Square parks; and the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx near Van Cortlandt Park as well as two small playgrounds.
“Because these trucks are mobile, the local hot spots might vary year-to-year, but it’s clear that there remain corridors where residents are persistently annoyed by the song and trying to do something about it,” Slutsky said. “For example, last year saw a steep rise in complaints in the north part of Kingsbridge, near Van Cortlandt Park. Not far away though in Norwood, south of the Williamsbridge Oval, there was a drop in complaints compared to previous years. Perhaps, the ice cream truck routes changed — or the persistent complainers moved away. It is essential to identify these delicate patterns in order to provide an up-to-date local picture of noise hazards.”
Below is a list of the top 12 areas with clusters of ice cream song complaints. The list includes the parks, playgrounds and gardens where many of the complaints were concentrated in the past year:
- Jamaica, around Captain Tilly Park
- Flatiron/Union Square, around Union Square Park and Madison Square Park
- Kingsbridge, around Bailey Playground, Fort Independence Playground and Van Cortlandt Park
- Sunset Park, around Rainbow Playground, Brizzi Playground and Sunset Park
- Elmhurst/Corona, around Newtown Playground
- East Harlem, around Rev. Linnette C Williamson Memorial Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Playground, Morningside Park, Marcus Garvey Park, TRUCE Garden and Playground One Twenty Five CXXV
- Norwood, around Whalen Park
- Bedford-Stuyvesant, around John Hancock Playground, Herbert Von King Park, Hattie Carthan Community Garden, Banneker Playground and Tranquility Farm
- Boerum Hill/Fort Greene, around Nicholas Naquan Heyward Jr. Park, Boerum Park, North Pacific Playground, Fort Greene Park; Oracle Playground
- Soundview, around Soundview Park
- Manhattanville/West Harlem, around Annunciation Playground, Jacob H. Schiff Playground, Montefiore Square, Alexander Hamilton Playground, Frank White Memorial Garden, Carmansville Park and Jackie Robinson Park
- Inwood, around Inwood Hill Park, Fort Tryon Park, Dyckman House Museum and Isham Park
The No. 1 area on the list was in Jamaica, near the quiet Captain Tilly Park (as well as around Highland Avenue and Ava Place, and 170th Street near 89th and 90th avenues). Residents filed complaints on 61 days about the ice cream truck songs, griping most during the hours of 6 to 9 p.m. The area might be along a route for many of the ice cream trucks. There’s a Mister Softee depot in Jamaica about a 12-minute drive away.
Ice cream jingles have been met with anger around Union Square and Madison Square parks. People in this area logged complaints over 45 days about the song. The bustling areas often have competing ice cream trucks vying for customers. There were even complaints in December and February!
Many of the complaints in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, which was No. 3 on the list, were clustered around the southern border of Van Cortlandt Park near Hillman, Saxon and Orloff avenues, as well as near Bailey Playground and Fort Independence Playground. Many of the complaints filed over 37 days were on Saturdays and Sundays between 3 and 6 p.m.
Ice cream trucks have clearly found frozen hearts in the area.
One Kingsbridge woman wrote on Facebook in April, “YOUR A***** DRIVER IS STILL PARKED ON VAN CORTLANDT PARK SOUTH AND BLASTING NOISE. YOU, MISTER SOFTEE, HAVE BEEN THERE FOR MORE THAN AN HOUR. DO NOT COME TO MY NEIGHBORHOOD.”
Some boroughs melting down less
Manhattan saw the biggest year-over-year dip, with a 47 percent decline in complaints about the songs. Central and East Harlem both saw their complaints dip about 80 percent. Central Harlem’s complaints fell from 134 to 32 while East Harlem’s dropped from 83 to 13.
Brooklyn saw a 25 percent dip, with Williamsburg dipping 85 percent from 19 complaints to just three, and Sunset Park dropping about 60 percent from 110 to 44 complaints.
There was a 7 percent drop in the Bronx, with an 87 percent drop in Mott Haven, where complaints fell from 47 the year before to just six over the past 12 months. In the northern parts of Bronx, Norwood had a 58 percent drop from 84 complaints to 35, while the nearby Kingsbridge had a 178 percent rise from 32 complaints to 89 complaints.
Queens, on the other hand, saw an 11 percent increase. Cambria Heights, for instance, saw a 300 percent increase in complaints, from nine to 38, and Jamaica Estates saw a 200 percent increase from 20 complaints the year before to 57 complaints last year.
(Staten Island did not have enough data to calculate shifts.)
How Localize.city can help
When you’re looking to buy or rent a new home, Mister Softee might not be on your mind. But if the song is a pet peeve, check out Localize.city to see if the area has been a hot spot for complaints about it. The site flags areas where there have been significantly high numbers of complaints within the past year and what days and times neighbors have been griping most often about the songs.
It is important to note that city regulations prohibit trucks from playing music when stopped, and they are not allowed to idle for more than three minutes. You can file a complaint through 311. You can also call your local precinct, community board and your city council member to remind them of the rules, as well.