New York: Residents claim LaGuardia plane noise is driving people out of Queens neighbourhood

Residents of northeast Queens say plane noise from LaGuardia Airport has increased, and people have been moving out of the Flushing area because the noise has become unbearable.  Though there are two airports in the Queens area, in the past the noise was tolerable as it was more widely spread out. But in the past four years, through the FAA’s “NextGen” programme, like PBN in the UK, flight paths have been narrowed and changed. Those under these new routes are finding the level of noise unacceptable.  It was not like that when they moved to the area. They were not warned.  Through a FoI Act request, the “Queens Quiet Skies”group, along with state Sen. Tony Avella, found that though the number of flights at the airport hasn’t increased. Since 2012 there has been a 47% increase in planes over northeast Queens on one particular route. There is the  fear that the airport and the FAA are trying to do is see if they can increase capacity over one neighbourhood rather than spread it out  – and then they can increase capacity over others too.  Queens Quiet Skies and Senator Avella are hoping to start a working group with the Port Authority and FAA to address the problem.   When the changed flight paths were introduced and people complained, the Port Authority said this was due to heightened awareness and sensitivity to the issue than to any significant changes in aviation operations. (Sound familiar?)

Residents claim LaGuardia airplane noise is driving people out of Queens neighborhood

Residents of northeast Queens (New York)  claim airplane noise from LaGuardia Airport has increased over their heads.

Brian Will, of the group Queens Quiet Skies, said people have been moving out of his Flushing neighborhood because the airplane noise has become unbearable.

“There are some folks who say, ‘Well, you live by the airport, you knew that there were two airports in Queens, why’d you move to Queens?’ And the answer is because it was liveable just 10 years ago. The operations have changed,” Will said. “It’s brutal, the whole neighborhood is up for sale.”

“Always have planes flying above our heads, they didn’t bother anybody. Four years ago, about 6 o’clock in the morning, we were literally blasted out of bed,” Flushing resident Maria Becci said.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the group, along with state Sen. Tony Avella, found that capacity at the airport hasn’t increased, but one flight pattern is being used more than others.

Avella said since 2012, there’s been a 47% increase in airplanes over northeast Queens, and he wants to prevent the same thing from happening to other neighborhoods.

“What they’re trying to do is see if they can increase capacity over one neighborhood rather than spread it out and then they can increase capacity over every neighborhood,” Avella said.

Queens Quiet Skies and Avella are hoping to start a working group with the Port Authority and FAA to address the problem.

In a statement released late Tuesday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said the total number of flights from LaGuardia has remained flat over the last decade, and air traffic patterns are controlled by factors such as wind, weather, and mandated runway maintenance and safety.

But the Port Authority did say in 2012, the FAA increased the use of certain routes for takeoff that has shifted runway patterns to certain northern Queens neighborhoods.

The Port Authority said it is taking steps to work with neighborhoods on addressing airport noise.


See earlier: 

Engaging in a Softer Conversation About the Roar From New York’s Airports

By KIRK SEMPLE (New York Times)

JUNE 21, 2015

The Port Authority is doing a study to assess noise caused by flights using La Guardia Airport in Queens and other area airports and to recommend abatements.

Susan Carroll has developed a tender relationship with the noise monitor on the roof of her apartment building in Queens. She refers to it as “my monitor” (even though she does not own it) and checks on it daily to make sure it is still working (even though she does not operate it).   “I feel very protective of that monitor,” she said. “I feel like I have to watch over it.”

The machine is one of about a dozen that officials have added to the region’s noise monitoring system in the past year. They are a rare, tangible result of years of intense and frustrating lobbying by activists, including Ms. Carroll, against noise pollution from aircraft using the borough’s two airports.

The new monitors have not yet led to any significant solutions to the noise, which, residents contend, is as bad as ever. But the system expansion is among several recent developments that have put the conversation between the activists and airport administrators on much better footing and given long-suffering citizens some hope that the situation may one day improve.

In an interview this week, Janet McEneaney, a leader of the civic lobby, called the change in the dynamic “a great shift.”

As recently as three years ago, she said, officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the city’s airports, “didn’t want to give us the time of day.” But, she added, “I know people at the Port Authority now and can pick up the phone and call.”

Port Authority officials also underscored this new rapport. “A lot has happened and we are more engaged with the community than we were,” said Edward C. Knoesel, senior manager for environmental and noise programs in the Port Authority’s aviation department.

Despite the progress, however, there is uncertainty on all sides of the conversation — among local residents, government officials and aviation executives alike — about whether the various efforts will lead to popular solutions, particularly as officials seek to weigh the competing demands of safety, commerce, private enterprise and the public good.

Furthermore, the New York metropolitan area has one of the most complicated airspaces in the world, and any changes in operations — like flight schedules and patterns — can set off a cascade of effects across the country.

“We’re going to look for that wiggle room to make the situation better,” Mr. Knoesel said. “It’s tough.”

La Guardia noise

Complaints about noise pollution are longstanding in New York City, where two major airports, La Guardia Airport and Kennedy International Airport, are embedded in a densely populated urban landscape.

The outcry soared in 2012 when the Federal Aviation Administration, which directs the movement of aircraft in the air and on the ground, approved for more frequent use a takeoff trajectory that concentrated low-flying planes over a section of northeastern Queens, Port Authority officials said.

For residents of neighborhoods beneath that flight path, the change was immediate. Planes began blasting over their homes dozens of times a day. “It sounded like we were being strafed,” said Ms. McEneaney, a longtime resident of the Bayside neighborhood. The problem compelled her to create a group called Queens Quiet Skies.

Complaints also poured into the Port Authority about noise problems on other flight paths, though officials contended that those complaints had more to do with heightened awareness and sensitivity to the issue than to any significant changes in aviation operations.

Civic groups pressured their elected officials to do something, resulting in the passage of a bill in Albany requiring the Port Authority to initiate comprehensive studies of land use and aircraft noise patterns around its airports, including La Guardia and Kennedy as well as at Newark Liberty International Airport and Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

In November 2013, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed the bill, which would have required passage of a similar bill by New Jersey lawmakers to take effect. But at the same time he ordered the Port Authority not only to initiate the studies, but also to form community round tables to discuss noise and other aviation-related issues.

Port Authority officials last week made several public presentations about the New York studies. The agency has also begun similar initiatives, known as Part 150 studies, for the Newark and Teterboro airports.

As part of the studies, investigators will identify possible measures to reduce aircraft noise and limit its impact, such as changes in takeoff and landing routes, the acquisition of property near the airports and soundproofing of homes and other buildings.

The New York studies are expected to take at least three years, officials said. “That’s a long time for people being negatively impacted,” said Barbara E. Brown, chairwoman of the Eastern Queens Alliance and a leader in the lobby against aircraft noise.

In the past year or so, the Port Authority has taken additional steps to help address the noise problem — and assuage angry citizens.

Officials doubled the number of noise monitors, to at least 27; tripled the size of the Port Authority office dedicated to noise issues — the Noise Office — to six people; and made available a flight and noise monitoring web portal, WebTrak, that shows near-real-time aircraft traffic and its effects on the network of noise monitors. The Port Authority has also improved its noise complaint system.

In determining aircraft noise impacts, the federal government uses a measure that takes the average airplane noise exposure in a specific location over a year. The allowable limit is 65 decibels.

The F.A.A. uses computer modeling to gauge noise impact. But local activists and elected officials have demanded a more robust system of noise monitors to check those models against the most current data.

Civic activists seem particularly animated about the round tables ordered by Mr. Cuomo. Though not technically part of the Part 150 studies, the round tables are expected to be a forum for their members to discuss the study’s progress.

But the round-table process in New York has been bogged down by sharp differences among civic leaders. For months, two factions wrestled over whether there should be one round table or two for the airport studies in Queens. The Port Authority stepped in and recommended in February that there should be one. A four-person committee of citizens is working out the bylaws.

The disagreements over the form of the round table — after the hard work it took to get one — have driven some activists to distraction.

“The planes are coming, people are getting hurt and people are fighting about the number of round tables,” Len Schaier, a Nassau County resident and founder of, another civic group, said in an interview. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.” He sighed, then added, “I need a break.”

Activists, public officials and aviation executives alike are wondering what will, in the end, come out of the process.

Ms. Carroll, who said she has become so involved in the noise issue that “it feels like a full-time job,” suggested she was bracing for disappointment.

“I want to be optimistic,” she said. “But based on what’s been going on in recent years, we have to be realistic about what we can achieve.”


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.”