'Insufferable' construction noise keeping Toronto residents up all night

A construction site in full swing in Toronto on Wednesday March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Zeynep Şen moved to the Yonge and Esplanada area of Toronto from Turkey seven months ago.

“We chose the [area] because it is really close to the Lakeshore — safe and in the city centre,” Şen told CTV News Toronto.

However, at the time, Şen didn’t realize that the apartment she rented was very close to what she calls “a never-ending construction site.”

“During winter, the construction noise was tolerable due to fans, although I still needed ear plugs some nights,” Şen said.

“But when it got warmer, the actual noise level became evident. We cannot open windows neither during the day nor at night. Usually it starts around 10 p.m. and continues till 1 or 2 a.m.,” she continued.

“Sundays have been the only days for two months that I don't wear ear plugs for an uninterrupted night sleep or for not waking up at 7 a.m. with drill noise,” Şen said.

“It is downtown, but still a residential area. Thousands of people live here.”

As a non-native speaker, Şen says she prefers written communication, so she wrote to 311 Toronto on Twitter, sending video evidence of the noise, but received no response.

When reached for comment, the City of Toronto told CTV News Toronto that they have “received a small number of complaints for the Yonge and Esplanade area related to construction undertaken by Metrolinx.”

“This type of work is considered ‘Government Work,’ which is exempt from noise regulations in order to allow the government to accelerate important infrastructure projects,” Lyne Kyle of the City of Toronto strategic communications said.

Just blocks away from Yonge and Esplanade, Kate, who didn’t want to provide her surname, said she’s has also been kept up by constant noise in the area of Front and Sherbourne streets.

“I'm currently out of work because my business has been closed for 6 months, so I am home 24/7,” Kate told CTV News Toronto.

“I have construction noise outside my bedroom from 6 a.m. to sometimes as late as midnight. It's incredibly annoying,” she continued.

Kate says she hasn’t been able to open her windows or enjoy her balcony due to noise levels.

“I'm sympathetic of my shift-working neighbors and those who have young children, I imagine it's been very difficult,” she said.

Outside of any government construction work, the City of Toronto’s noise bylaws remain in effect.

“These bylaws mandate that noise made in connection with any construction activity is only permitted between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., seven days a week,” Kyle told CTV News Toronto.

However, Ontario has implemented various Emergency Orders that supersede Toronto’s noise bylaws, set to be in effect until Oct. 7.

“Under Ontario Regulation 82/20, noise made in connection with construction projects and services associated with the healthcare sector, including new facilities, expansions, renovations and conversion of spaces that could be repurposed for health care space, is permitted 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Kyle said.

These provincial regulations, in effect until Oct. 7, saw opposition NDP MPPs write an open letter and circulate a petition in the hopes of amending and removing the provision.

For residents like Şen and Kate, there’s no way to know whether the construction keeping them up at night has been permitted by the province to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Şen says that if only the construction would stop overnight, she would be able to handle the noise throughout the day.

“I'm fine with the noise during daytime but it’s insufferable at night.” 

The City of Toronto reminds residents that anyone that has a concern regarding construction noise can contact 311 and the city will investigate.