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Bellhop Whistles Drive Some Midtown Tenants Mad

By DNAinfo Staff on February 28, 2011 9:58am  | Updated on February 28, 2011 10:07am

The Muse Hotel on West 46th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues.
The Muse Hotel on West 46th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — A showdown is brewing between tenants of one Midtown block and the Muse Hotel over an ear-piercing complaint: excessive whistling.

Neighbors of the high-end boutique hotel on West 46th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues say their ears are constantly under attack from the loud, shrill sound of whistles blown by the Muse Hotel's bellhops as they hail cabs — and one couple has become so frustrated they’re now threatening to sue.

"It’s really annoying. It’s really, really loud," said Leah Nelson, 48, who works as a stagehand at the Lyceum Theatre, whose back door exits onto the block.

She said that theater staff can sometimes even hear the noise when they’re inside.

"It’s very piercing if you’re out here," she said.

Muse Hotel management defended their staff, saying bellhops have every right to use whistles to hail cabs for their guests.

"Occasionally we do need to whistle in order to get a cab and make sure we’re taking care of our guests," said the hotel's general manger, Ericka Nelson.

She said the bellhops typically flash hand-held flashing LED lights toward Seventh Avenue to catch cabbies' attention, and said that it's "very rare" that they resort to whistles when the lights fail.

Sidibi Abraham, 45, who has worked as a bellhop at the Comfort Inn directly across the street from the Muse for 15 years, said that guests frequently complain about the whistling, which he said is most frequent during rush hour and over the weekend. He blamed two particular bellhops for the majority of the whistling.

Standing across from the hotel early one recent afternoon, Abraham estimated that he’d heard Muse bellhops whistle for cabs at least 15 times since the beginning of his shift just before the morning rush.

"Sometimes it’s like a band, it’s like an orchestra," he said of the whistling, adding that he gets along just fine hailing cabs from Seventh Avenue by waving.

"It’s not necessary for them to make that kind of noise," he said.

Residents said that the whistling had subsided after months of problems, but said the bellhops are now back at it. DNAinfo took several visits to the Muse Hotel over the past few weeks, and a reporter observed bellhops frequently using their whistles to hail cabs.

"It’s annoying. You’ll be sitting in here with the music blaring and you can still hear them," said New Jersey resident Bob Keller, 47, who has worked in the area for about three years.

Kathleen Cromwell, a member of the West 46th Street Block Association, who fought tooth-and-nail to prevent a comedy club from obtaining a license for dancing on the block, said that the association intends to hold a meeting soon to decide if they want to pursue legal action, since complaints haven't worked.

"[They] are whistling their heads off. Despite the entire community's objection to it," she wrote in an email.

But not everyone on the block is behind the condemnation.

Resident Cas Marino, 44, said that noise and traffic are part of Midtown life.

"We’re right in Times Square. If noise bothers you, you really have to live in New Jersey,” he said, adding that the whistling doesn't bother him.

Still, he criticized hotel staff for antagonizing neighbors in other ways, including by hogging parking spots and acting as though they’re entitled to any cab that drives down the block.

Bill Rowland 55, who also works on the street, said locals just have to grin and bear it.

His advice to angry residents? "Move to the suburbs," he said.