As one plane after another flew overhead, sometimes drowning out their words, several elected officials, along with area residents, expressed concern over environmental issues facing the borough as a result of proposed changes to flight procedures at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports.
At a press conference at Little Bay Park in Bayside on Tuesday, Representatives Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing) were among those who called on the Federal Aviation Administration to exempt the two airports’ flights from a new rule that would allow the agency to make changes to flight procedures without conducting an environmental review to study the impact of the changes.
“It is outrageous that the FAA is seeking greater leeway to exempt itself from vital environmental studies which determine whether or not new airplane routes — and the accompanying noise — adversely impact affected communities,” Meng said.
According to her, the agency’s plan to further sidestep this process is “a slap in the face to all who live and work underneath new flight patterns. It is imperative that the FAA abandon its intention to proceed with it.”
Israel suggested that the FAA “should be focused on reducing noise and air pollution, not making it easier to bypass vital environmental studies. The FAA’s proposed rule is “simply unacceptable,” he said.
He also cautioned those on hand that “the clock is ticking,” as the agency could get “unilateral authority” at the end of the month if the rule is put into effect.
“This is not the time to pull the rug out” from under the feet of residents in the areas that would be affected, Israel said. “We expect the airports to be a good neighbor,” adding that the FAA should stand for the “Federal Arrogant Administration.” State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) called on the FAA to continue conducting environmental reviews, saying that “our constituents, who are dealing with increased noise pollution, deserve to have the FAA study how new flight patterns will affect their quality of life before making them permanent.”
Avella suggested that “The FAA has to change its M.O.”
Also blasting the agency was Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), who said the FAA seems to indicate “they don’t care about community input.” He looks forward to a full environmental review in Northeast Queens.
Representing Queens Quiet Skies, a public interest organization, Robert Whitehair said, “This is FAA behavior that we can’t stand. It is unacceptable.” He predicted that if something isn’t done, the situation “is going to get even worse.”
Tim Vance, vice president of the Weeks Woodlands Association in Bayside, said the windows in his home rattle and glasses filled with orange juice often shake on his breakfast table when planes fly overhead.
“We think the FAA was obligated to notify us early” of the proposed new rule, he said. “We object strenuously to the FAA for electing not to do so.”
The problem is so bad that homeowners in the area have nicknamed the neighborhood LaGuardia Runway East, Vance said.
Auburndale resident Henry Euler complained that “the constant noise and pollution from planes overhead disturb a lot of people.” A member of QQS, he came bearing a sign listing several goals that the organization suggests could be used to curb the problems, including the establishment of a roundtable to discuss noise concerns and the installation of a number of noise monitors in the area.
Sylvia Johnson of Bay Terrace said that this past summer she had “a rude awakening,” with planes flying overhead every 45 seconds from 6 a.m. until midnight.
“It’s too much to bear,” she said. “It’s very disturbing.”
But Avella remained optimistic, saying, “I think in the end we will win this.”