Dear Paramount Management
I was disturbed, angered and ultimately saddened to come across the notice that appeared in the elevator of the Paramount on Saturday night about the so-called ‘loud party music’ said to be emanating from the rooftop of 47 William St (Slims).
I am the owner of a Paramount unit and have been residing here since 2013. While admittedly my north-facing 1 bedroom unit is sheltered from the goings-on of William St, unlike the 2.5 bedroom units in the block, I do walk past Hyde Park House, the venue in question, on William St (the Paramount side) after 6pm almost every day, on my way home from work at the University of Sydney, and/or to walk my dog in Cook & Philip Park, any time between 6pm and 11pm.
While I have indeed noticed music wafting from the rooftop venue in question on one or two occasions over the past month on my way to and from home, to describe the muffled, atmospheric sounds of people socialising that I have experienced on these occasions as “loud party music” is – if I can be so blunt and pointed – a bit rich.
At the very least, I am quite sure these intermittent and ambient sounds of social recreation and urban leisure (which many people might otherwise or once have considered characteristic of urban centres and the experience of life in areas located close to the very centre of major cities) are nothing that a decent pair of ear plugs, or headphones with light relaxation music, or some straightforward interior design solutions could not mask. Certainly, the disturbance created by 47 William Street is certainly far less intense in duration and volume than the noise emanating from another social/communal venue within direct earshot of the Paramount in the vicinity, namely St Mary’s Cathedral
I am not aware of anyone ever having petitioned the council about the loud noise emanating from this institution, whose huge bells chime for whole swathes of precious time over the weekend, every weekend, from morning onwards. Since I often work from home over the week, I have often thought to do so, since the “LOUD SANCTIMONIOUS NOISE” coming from this venue interferes with one of the main opportunities I have to get certain aspects of my job done – namely reading, research and writing – each of which require extended periods of concentration that are difficult to maintain when the boisterous noise that routinely emanates from this problem venue penetrates the haven of one’s private residence .
I have refrained from doing so, in the end, on the basis that cultural institutions such as this one serve an important social, communal and recreational function for a social minority in Sydney (i.e. observing Catholics); and that the noise made by these bells is a routine and ritualised part of these communal gatherings. Most significantly, I knew full well that such activities went on in this neighbourhood when I first decided to buy into the Paramount.
So rather than try to impose my professional and personal needs on the neighbourhood as though I have some natural, ‘god-given’ entitlement to do so (as a “private resident”) I just shut my balcony doors, put some headphones on and get on with things.
For my part, I was delighted that the current owners of the trading venue t 47 William St decided to refurbish and convert the rather bleak, non-descript and usually empty Hotel William into Hyde Park House, complete with a stylish and striking rooftop eatery and bar, Slim’s Ithe venue I presume to be the source of some of my fellow resident’s moral indignation and NIMBY-style evangelism). In my view – shared, it appears, by hundreds of friends and acquaintances familiar with Sydney’’s inner eastern suburbs and their urban and cultural history – the venue has added much needed life and effervescence to what has otherwise become a depressingly sterile local environs increasingly resembling a soulless ghost-town with little colour and movement whatsoever except the cars, buses and other vehicles pushing their way up the increasingly bland and alienating major road coursing through the area (William St) on their way to somewhere else.
To my mind, venues such as Hyde Park House add value – social, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, communal and financial value – to the area as a whole, the local environment, and indeed the residential properties located within it. “At last”, I thought, “a social venue that has the practical initiative, financial clout, critical and popular acclaim and aesthetic knowhow to buck the anti-urban wowserism that is killing the city formerly loved and known as Sydney. Given the devastating effects of the O’Farrell government’s 2014 Lockout laws – not only on many small businesses throughout the entire 2010-2011 Sydney postcode area and beyond, but also on the distinctive social and recreational life and street culture that once made Sydney an exciting, friendly, vibrant and dynamic place to live and an internationally compelling tourist destination, I very much welcome a lively new social venue in my local area.
The elevator notice posted on the weekend asked residents to contact council to lodge their concern as well as email the building manager. But this approach to the matter is unfair and patently unbalanced. I believe it is necessary to devise a more even-handed strategy to these sorts of issues. I would like to see notices of this kind changed to reflect a more neutral and open stance that genuinely polls residents to express their views on the matter in question, whether for or against, and encourages them to share such views with council should they desire to take further action.
For my part, I am cc-ing this email to council, as well as the venue in question, to express my opposition to this resident action. Since the retort I taped below the original notice was removed, I had also planned to mailbox all residents a copy of this letter and share it with my extensive professional, governmental and community networks through relevant social media platforms. I would do so, not because I have anything personal against the complainants or building management per se, but because the action itself is indicative and/or symptomatic of wider trends in the erasure of public urban space that I find deeply concerning and demanding of counter-action.
As it happens, I contacted council, who informed me their rangers visited the venue on the night of the complaint and determined the sound levels were within the acceptable range for this venue’s licence type. I now wonder if the residents responsible for the complaint might be suffering from hyperacusis. They might want to look into it.
The Paramount is situated in the 2010-2011 area, very close to the city, right in the middle of the inner east’s Sydney’s historic urban social scene. Presuming those who reside here or buy properties in this apartment block are aware of this history, the “loud party noise” issue of the past weekend – like similar matters/actions that have come to my attention over the time I’ve resided here – have left me and many of my friends and correspondents wondering why those intent on wielding their status as ‘property owners’ or ‘private residents’ to shut down social venues in this neighbourhood, effectively killing all signs of social life in Darlinghurst, don’t just sell up and/or go and move somewhere quiet and peaceful and as boring as they seem determined to make this area.
KANE RACE (Associate Professor)
E kane.race @sydney.edu.au
Gender pronouns: he/him/his