All over Queens, residents say that increased plane noise is affecting their quality of life. However, the neighborhoods of Maspeth and Middle Village have not been known to have this problem because they are located south of LaGuardia Airport, away from departing routes.
Representatives from the Port Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration sought to address the community’s complaints at a Maspeth Town Hall public information meeting hosted by Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth) on Nov. 6.
Nevertheless, longtime resident and civic leader, Roe Daraio says her windows shake and the planes fly so low “it’s as if they’re going to land on our roof.”
Joyce Franceschina says that she can smell jet fuel on a regular basis.
Mark Guiod, an air traffic manager for the FAA, said that the most frustrating thing about his job is that people keep asking him what has changed. “Nothing’s changed,” he said. “the only thing that ever changes is seasonal weather patterns.”
“Weather doesn’t just happen on Saturday,” one resident replied, referring to the noise that woke up many people in the area shortly after 6 a.m. the previous weekend.
Ed Knoesel from the Port Authority informed the community that one runway was closed for maintenance while the taxiway was repaved and that this will not be a pattern.
Richard Doyle lives in Elmhurst and said the plane noise has never been loud enough to wake him up, prior to June. He believes that the noise has increased because the flight path for arriving planes has shifted about 10 to 15 blocks east. He claims that the planes used to fly over the western end of Maspeth, which is industrial and commercial, rather than the residential area, which is on a hill.
Daraio and Franceschina’s houses sit on the Maspeth plateau, which is seven stories above sea level at its highest point, giving residents an unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline.
Daraio, who has lived in Maspeth for 38 years, said that she invited neighbors over to eat in her yard, in previous summers.
“This summer, I couldn’t have anyone over. I never went through this ever before. I don’t know why you’re saying you didn’t change anything when I can’t hear my neighbors a few feet away,” she said.
Guiod explained to the meeting NextGen, a highly sophisticated computer system that lets pilots follow a defined path, in order to optimize efficiency, while maintaining safety in the nation’s most complex airspace.
Some residents described the frequency by which the planes arrive as one after another, every 20 seconds or so, but Guiod accused them of exaggerating because a plane cannot land until the previous plane has landed and turned off the runway, which takes about a minute and 45 seconds.
“I would give the air traffic controller an award if he can move planes that fast,” he said.
Middle Village resident Len Santoro said that since 2008 the planes have been flying lower over his home late at night, to the point where he can’t keep his window open. Santoro said that he once complained to the Port Authority and was told that planes do not fly below 3,000 feet over his home.
“I find that very hard to believe,” he said.
Former United pilot David Williams described a typical descent into LaGuardia Airport at the meeting. He said that planes approach the city over Prospect Park at 2,500 feet, cross the former Maspeth tanks at 1,500 feet, find the expressway and descend at a three-degree glide, which is preferable to flying low.
A resident asked Guiod if the noise in Middle Village and Maspeth is a result of the departure procedure, which has planes take off south and turn east to fly over northeast Queens, but he said that’s not the case.
Knoesel, told the community that all four noise monitors around LaGuardia Airport will be replaced with new ones, which will monitor real-time noise, to ensure that arriving and departing planes do not exceed the limit of 112 perceived noise level in decibels.
He noted that this has been the limit since the 1960s and that airlines that exceed this level at JFK Airport are hit with a $250 fine, but there is no penalty at LaGuardia. Neither the PA nor the airports can change this discrepancy because the fines are enshrined in federal law, he noted.
Knoesel said the agency will now calculate noise contours, or the average noise in an area, annually rather than every five years.
The agency is updating its website to display flight noise, decibel levels, runway closures and flight tracking in real time. Knoesel said they aim to have the new website up by December.
The complaint system has also been integrated and now consists of a toll free number, (800) 225-1071 and a form is available online at planenoise.com/panynj/daPRAbr9.
Markey said that she will ask Borough President-Elect Melinda Katz to use the Aviation Advisory Committee to serve the community.
Meanwhile, Carmine Gallo, the FAA regional administrator, is forming a roundtable, which will include community representatives, but Guiod does not know when this will happen.