neighborhood news

All of Brooklyn Heights Came Together to Stop a Mysterious Chirping Sound

The Cadman Towers complex in Brooklyn Heights. Photo: Google Maps

In early November, residents of Brooklyn Heights started to hear a mysterious high-pitched chirping noise around Cadman Plaza Park. Some thought the sound was a car alarm; others thought it was the mechanical whir of a motor. Strangely, the sound changed depending on where you were in the neighborhood. And it wouldn’t stop. The people who live in the Cadman Towers and nearby buildings could hear it at all hours of the day, even through closed windows at night as they tried to sleep. Naturally, people took to Nextdoor to line up their theories while slowly being driven insane. Ultimately, the desperate neighborhoodwide hunt for the source, chronicled in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, took three whole weeks. While seemingly all of Brooklyn Heights was involved, in the end, one intrepid sound engineer and his wife emerged as the heroes.

Fresh from the memory of the screeching condo tower in neighboring Cobble Hill, many first blamed construction projects. Was it the scaffolding over the local Gristedes? MTA construction? An NYU dorm? Complaints to 311 and to the inbox of the management at Cadman Towers led to a search of nearby buildings. The local police precinct got involved, and a resident even deployed a drone to search for the cause of the sound. Nothing. “It felt like the sound would be a part of our lives forever,” one resident told the Eagle.

Then, on November 11, Toba Potosky got involved. An audio engineer by trade, Potosky had been the board president of Cadman Towers for 16 years before stepping down to run for the local City Council seat last year. He set out very early with his iPhone — we’re talking before 3 a.m. — to try to pinpoint the source in the predawn quiet. But, he said, “No matter where I went, the sound seemed to come from the opposite direction.”

In the end, it was his wife, Ronni, who had a strong (and correct!) hunch about a neighbor, referred to in the Eagle story as “Tenant X.” The Potoskys used their copy of X’s keys to open the door to his apartment and finally learned where the ear-piercing chirps were coming from. It turned out the culprit was a Bird-X Transonic Pro, a pest-repelling sound machine sitting on a balcony. This ultrasonic device, which emits extremely high-pitched sound waves that can travel up to 3,500 feet, is available for the low, low price of $35.49. It’s designed to be utterly repulsive to pests of all stripes — X had left it on the anti-rat setting — and it turns out it’s also incredibly effective on humans as well. When Tenant X finally called Potosky back and was informed he had been “torturing Brooklyn Heights” with his machine, his first response was “Bullshit.” Thanks to Ronni, all they had to do was flip the switch off and let the sirens and car horns and traffic noises fill the air again — that is, until the next mystery sound emerges.

Brooklyn Heights Came Together to Stop a Mysterious Chirp