How loud is too loud when kids are playing in the yard? And do the neighbors have the right to tell parents and kids to keep it down?
Those questions ended up in front of a village court in Bayville, N.Y., Wednesday night, in a hearing that attracted scores of community members.
William and Rachel Poczatek were charged with violating local noise ordinances after their neighbors complained that the Poczateks' two daughters, ages 5 and 11, were making too much noise around the family's pool.
The couple could have faced a $250 fine and 15 days in jail, but the village court dismissed the charges.
The neighbors say they hope the Poczatek girls will learn to keep it down.
Neighbor Mark Kostackis says he put up a fence and a hedge and installed a waterfall to try and block out the noise from next door.
Nothing helped, Kostackis said. "Not when they're making the noise like that."
The noisemakers on the other side of the wall are 5-year-old Chloe and 11-year-old Ashley.
Rachel Poczatek says the girls never swim past 9 p.m., and while she says they might squeal, the girls don't curse.
"When is it a crime for our kids to play and be kids? That's what we want our kids to do," she said.
But the neighbors disagree. They even made a 30-minute audiotape to record the noise from the Poczateks' backyard.
For three years, a group of neighbors say they've put up with excessive, outrageous noise — not just kids being kids.
"We know when children play. If that's all it was, was children playing, having a good old time, screaming, yelling doing their rambunctious thing that children do, that would be fine," said neighbor Sheila Brown.
Angie and Mark Kostackis say they have as much right to enjoy their home and yard as the Poczatek children do. But the noise, they say, has prevented them from doing that.
"It's not about the children, it's about the quality of life for everyone in the neighborhood," Angie Kostackis said. "We all should be able to enjoy the interior and exterior of our homes."
And expectant mother Laurann Webb, who already has a toddler, said parents needed to monitor their kids' behavior.
"All children need some sort of discipline, and they have to learn how to respect people around them," Webb said.
Neighbors on both sides said they couldn't believe the dispute ended up in court, calling it "blown out of proportion."
After the case was dismissed Wednesday night, the Poczateks said they'd try to be better neighbors.
"I don't feel they were noisy — kids are kids, you know, but we will try to keep them quieter," William said.
But he said that Chloe and Ashley would be back in the pool as soon as the sun shone.
The neighbors will be listening.
"Maybe after all this they'll get the picture. I hope so. Nobody wants any of this," Mark Kostackis said.