New Yorkers Find Hotel Doormen's Whistling for Cabs Annoying

The shrill whistles from bellmen hailing taxis outside the Muse Hotel in New York have led to complaints, accusations, and even police intervention.

"It's awful, really bad," Roberto Romeo tells the New York Times. Romeo runs a rehearsal space and repairs musical instruments across the street from the boutique hotel.

"It's like being on a ship when the captain whistles to get everyone on deck," he adds.

New York may be full of noise, but those who live and work on the block of West 46th Street where the hotel is located say when a bellman at the Muse whistles to hail a cab, the noise is so piercing it cuts through all other ambient noises.

Leah Nelson, the prop master at the Lyceum Theater, describes the noises as "very obnoxious, very loud and very persistent."

"It's like Chinese water torture," she tells the New York Times. The Lyceum Theater has a stage door on West 46th Street, and Nelson says the whistles penetrate theater walls and can be heard backstage.

A spokesman for 311, the city government's information line, says operators received two complaints about whistling outside the Muse in 2009. The whistles have been brought up in block association meetings and at the local precinct's community council gatherings. Some residents have taken their grievances directly to managers at the hotel and it's corporate headquarters in San Francisco.

Kathleen Cromwell, a freelance journalist who has lived on the block for more than 20 years, says the whistles often disrupted her train of thought and interrupted recording sessions by her husband, Spiros Soukis, a musician.

"It's like a constant motif that punctures throughout the day," Cromwell says. "It reaches these crescendo pitches at certain points."

After speaking with a manager at the Muse, she says, most bellmen at the hotel began using lights to signal taxis. But one of them, Wilberto Melendez, continued to whistle.

The couple continued to call the hotel and ask for quiet, until last February when they received a disturbing message on their answering machine from a male speaker.

"Let this be the last time you call in regards to complaints on the block," the voice said. "We're warning you. We've got your number. We know who you are."

Soukis says the message was "very chilling" and left him shaking. The police were called in to investigate, and eventually determined the caller had been Mr. Melendez.

Police referred the couple to civil court, but the pair has not taken any further legal action.

Ericka Nelson, the general manager of the Muse, tells the New York Times Mr. Melendez is still employed at the hotel, but did not respond to any further questions.

Residents on the block say Melendez disappeared for several months last year, and relative quiet took over the block. Some say they thought the whistling days were gone, until one day this winter Melendez reappeared outside the hotel.

According to residents, a second gray-suited bellman has joined in the whistling, leading them to wonder if the noise will ever end.

While on the job, a reporter attempted to speak with Melendez after he signaled a taxi with a series of shrill whistles. Melendez declined to comment about his cab-hailing technique or the answering machine message.

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