Big protest in Queens, New York, against unacceptable level of aircraft noise from La Guardian & JFK airports
People living near La Guardia airport, and JFK airport in New York have been protesting against the aircraft noise to which they are being subjected. On 14th September, the local community group, “QUEENS QUIET SKIES” organized a rally of 250 – 300 people against the plane noise, saying the residents are fed up with the noise. Residents say changes over the past few years have made backyards (=gardens) unusable and had a very negative effect on their neighbourhoods. They want less noise, with the acceptable noise level reduced to 55 decibels from the current 65-decibel day-night average sound level. This could be done by more dispersed flights. They also want better noise abatement programs. People in Queens want the issue of aircraft noise tacked on a national level, and say the current noise standard, which has been in place since the 1970s, “is no longer a reliable measure of the true impact of aircraft noise.” As it England and elsewhere the impact is that people can no longer enjoy sitting in the garden, a barbeque with friends – or even just the basic “luxury” of opening the windows on a hot day. One commented: “No one should be subjected to planes flying at low altitudes at one-minute intervals for 18 hours a day every day. Enough is enough.”
250 rally against jet noise from LaGuardia, JFK airports
About 250 people rallied Sunday against noise from jets landing and taking off at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, saying that changed flight patterns over the past few years have made backyards unusable and altered neighborhoods for the worse.
Elected officials, including Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), called for reduced noise levels deemed acceptable and additional noise abatement programs by the Port Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Living on Long Island, it’s like living in Baghdad during the war,” Israel said at the rally in Cunningham Park, near Fresh Meadows, Queens. Israel has said he would withhold billions in FAA funding if the agency doesn’t keep a promise to limit night flights over some Nassau County communities.
He and 25 other lawmakers from across the country sent a letter Friday urging the FAA to lower its acceptable noise pollution level to 55 decibels from the 65-decibel day-night average sound level.
“Rather than addressing this issue piecemeal in fragmented areas of the nation, we believe it is time for the FAA to tackle this issue on a national level,” the representatives wrote.
The current noise standard, which has been in place since the 1970s, “is no longer a reliable measure of the true impact of aircraft noise.”
Representatives from Queens Quiet Skies, an advocacy group that organized Sunday’s rally, said that a lower standard would allow for more areas to qualify for subsidized soundproofing and force more dispersed flight paths.
About three years ago, Elaine Miller said planes started flying over her house in the Nassau County village of Malverne, where she had lived 15 years.
“It was a peaceful community,” said Miller, who teaches the deaf and hard of hearing. “Now it’s a nightmare.”
She came to the rally because she said it was important for groups that want the FAA to be responsive to public concerns to stick together.
Lynn Andres, who has lived in Bayside for 27 years, said her neighborhood changed two years ago when the steady stream of planes started flying over her house. “I just woke up one day, heard a plane and thought it was going to crash into my house,” she said.
She said backyard barbecues and neighborly chats have all been impeded by the planes. “I haven’t had my windows open in a year and a half.” In a statement Sunday, the FAA blamed predominant winds from the north for increased air traffic over some areas.
More than 300 Queensites came out to a rally at Cunningham Park Sunday afternoon to demand an end to the constant din emanating from airplanes traveling to and from the borough’s airports.
Advocacy group Queens Quiet Skies hosted the rally, which was attended by a long list of elected officials and community leaders, to put pressure on the Federal Aviation Administration to reduce air traffic and the noise that comes with it.
“I can’t sleep. I can’t watch TV. I can’t sit on my terrace,” said Susan Carroll, a Flushing resident and member of Queens Quiet Skies. “I have to keep the AC on even in cooler weather to drown out the noise.”
Protesters said the increasing amount of planes passing above them has made their suburban neighborhoods uninhabitable and has severely damaged their quality of life.
In November, Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated a series of roundtable discussions between residents, the PA and the FAA about the issue, and several meetings have been held since.
But Queens Quiet Skies has been disappointed with the format of the forums, as there have been separate meetings for each of the area’s major airports.
“In recent months, we have created noise roundtables to bring together the Federal Aviation Administration, the Port Authority, elected officials and community to discuss noise problems, unveiled a feature on the PA’s website that allows residents to track planes and decibel levels over their communities and deployed more noise monitors around both airports to help collect additional data,” said PA spokesman Ron Marsico. “Additionally, the agency is nearing selection of a consultant to help implement the governor’s request for federal Part 150 noise studies at both JFK and LaGuardia [airports] to determine what steps may be possible to help alleviate specific noise issues.”
The FAA said that while it has not made any changes to air traffic routes over the Nassau County-Queens border, there has been an increased usage of air traffic routes that go over some areas due to predominant winds from the north.
U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Steve Israel (D-Melville) announced at the rally that they have sent a letter, signed by 26 members of Congress, to the FAA calling for the national standard for noise levels to be lowered. The Congress members said the standard should be lowered from the current 65 decibel Day-Night Sound Level to 55 DNL.
“We are here to demand once and for all that the FAA enforce the law, maintain safe skies, but keep the peace on the ground,” Israel said. “Study after study has agreed the decibel level should be lowered. The longer the FAA waits, the louder it gets. Quit waiting. Quit studying. Give these communities the peace and the quiet they deserve once and for all.”
Carroll lives in an apartment building in Flushing, where the PA placed a noise monitor to collect data. She said it has broken down three times since it was installed and lost six days worth of data. It has also shown decibel level readings that are frequently in the 80s and 90s, she said.
“We deserve better,” Carroll said. “No one should be subjected to planes flying at low altitudes at one-minute intervals for 18 hours a day every day. Enough is enough.”
Video clip (only for those subscribed to Time Warner cable) at
Local community group, “QUEENS QUIET SKIES“
Mission Statement and Specific Goals of Queens Quiet Skies is listed below:
– Reduce Noise from New York, New Jersey and Long Island Aircraft Flights, without merely moving noise from one place to another.
– Educate the public about this complex problem, leading to an opportunity to fix the airspace and modernize airports.
– Create a Public Forum where stakeholders from all affected parts of Queens and Nassau County — citizens and elected officials, key decision makers from The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the FAA, the Airlines, and other stakeholder groups — collaborate to make significant changes.
– Now that an Aviation Roundtable has been mandated by Governor Cuomo, make sure that decisions are made by a Roundtable of all affected parties — citizens, Port Authority/airport, airlines, and the FAA — as in 25 other locations around the country.
– Require the Port Authority to develop a solid noise abatement program to educate pilots and other airport users, to reduce noise from individual aircraft flights.
– Now that Governor Cuomo has required the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to prepare a Noise Compatibility Study that meets the requirements of FAA’s “Part 150” for Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports, watch the process very closely, while actively participating.
– Demand that the FAA and Port Authority prepare a full Environmental review of flight changes, as has been done in most other major U.S. airports; continue to oppose the FAA proposal to exempt such flight changes from environmental review; and actively participate in FAA’s OAPM for the Metroplex.
– Require the installation of many more noise monitors at LaGuardia, where there were only 5 (4 for Queens, 1 for the Bronx), and JFK where there were only 11 (7 in Queens and 4 in Nassau County) at airports of similar size across the U.S., there are as many as 30 or even 40 noise monitors per airport.
Cuomo orders plane noise studies
Residents in northeast Queens fighting the increase in airplane noise rejoiced this week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the Port Authority to complete a series of tasks intended to address their concerns.
In response to a growing number of complaints from homeowners, including many in Queens, Cuomo ordered the agency to double the number of portable noise monitors currently in place and more closely track any aircraft that violate the decibel limit so necessary fines can be enforced.
Cuomo also urged the Port Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration to work together with concerned residents as decisions are made that will affect their communities in the future.
Janet McEneany, president of the Queens Quiet Skies advocacy group, said she and the other advocates fighting the increase in airplane noise were pleased to hear about Cuomo’s decision and praised him for not taking their concerns lightly.
“Overall, we’re very happy with the direction this is going,” she said on behalf of the northeast Queens group. “This will, for the first time, allow for public input, transparency and public participation in the decision-making.”
Residents in Queens, including Queens Quiet Skies members, have pushed for community involvement in a roundtable that would facilitate formal discussions and negotiations between the FAA and homeowners who say they are burdened by airplane noise in their neighborhoods. Cuomo’s directive requires the Port Authority to begin taking part in such meetings as early as April.
“Airport noise is rightly an important concern for residents of Queens, the Bronx and Nassau County, and that is why I am directing the Port Authority to open a full and thorough dialogue with the impacted communities while also pursuing a noise study to better address the issue,” Cuomo said. “We will listen to local residents and ensure their input is used to make both JFK and LaGuardia airports better neighbors.”
Aside from setting a goal of next month for the roundtables to begin, Cuomo’s directive did not provide a timetable for when he expected the Port Authority to have all studies and monitor installations complete.
But McEneany said she believes the Port Authority is getting ready to start the bidding process to find a contractor to conduct the study, and it will then take between 18 and 36 months to complete.
“The Port Authority understands it must strive to be a good neighbor in the communities where its airports are located,” Port Authority Aviation Director Thomas Bosco said. “We will seek noise mitigation with the FAA where feasible.”
Queens Quiet Skies member meets with FAA
The battle for quieter skies in northeast Queens traveled across the country last month as one borough advocate attended a conference to address airplane noise with representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration.
In a meeting of about 170 people, the FAA met with civilians from across the nation in Palm Springs, Calif., in February to hear concerns about increased air traffic and changes in flight patterns that have led to a rise in the amount of airplane noise in residential communities.
Much of the discussion at the meeting, according to Whitehair, was about complaints the FAA has received from residents who live near major U.S. airports, including LaGuardia and Kennedy in Queens.
Many Queens advocates say much of the noise increase is a result of changes in flight paths that have rerouted more planes over the city and allowed them to fly closer to residential neighborhoods.
Despite all the talk about plane volume, the discussion at the conference mentioned no direct link between the flight path changes and the increase in noise, Whitehair said.
“They didn’t talk much about how it has increased the noise, and I think that was a mistake,” he said. “We would like to see more studies done on that.”
One change in particular, known as the tnnis climb, has rerouted planes over northeast Queens and has led to what some residents say is non-stop noise as aircraft constantly come in and out of LaGuardia and JFK airports.
Whitehair said the FAA is planning on making a significant number of changes to flight plans in large metropolitan areas around the country, and he said Queens Quiet Skies will continue to fight for a seat at the table as the decisions are made.
“The tnnis climb has been a disaster for the citizens of northeast Queens and more of that would not be good for us,” Whitehair said. “We just don’t like the way these changes are being done and they’re not addressing how we are going to have procedures that will result in less noise.”
Whitehair said there were also a large number of presentations given about the environmental impact of the extra air traffic that New York’s airports have taken on, with more than half of the 25 presentations focused on topics such as sustainable fuels and reducing emissions from airports.
He said the group also discussed strategies other cities across the country are using in order to settle similar issues with their nearby airports. The Douglaston resident said one possible solution is to enter into an agreement that would regulate the number of flights allowed in and out of airports and would also closely monitor the noise level that results.
“Noise has really been our biggest gripe all along, and it continues to be, and I think we would like to see some kind of agreement here,” Whitehair said. “These officials are very smart people and are very good at their jobs, but I just don’t think their efforts are focused where they need to be focused.