Seated in a large rectangular configuration in a giant hangar at the Vaughn College of Aeronautics at LaGuardia Airport, the Queens Aviation roundtable members reconvened last Wednesday to discuss noise, flight procedures, and plan for the future of the body.
Ed Knoesel, manager of Environmental Services for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, chaired the meeting and updated members on the newly created Noise Office, which is hiring staff. The PA is still placing noise monitors and would like site suggestions from community members in relatively quiet residential areas. He noted that Queens Quiet Skies has already provided a lengthy list based on flight routes and procedures. Two were placed recently, one of which is in Bayside, and the PA can purchase up to 36 more portable monitors.
The Port Authority is also about to kick off the Part 150 Study ordered by Gov. Cuomo, which will assess noise, establish noise contour maps and the land uses within them and study the feasibility of strategies to mitigate the noise impacts. The agency plans to release its request for proposals in several weeks for qualified consultants to complete the study for one or both airports.
Some roundtable members, including Patrick Evans from the Eastern Queens Alliance, say it is unfair that their input won’t be included in the study, but the Port Authority and Federal Aviation Administration maintain that if they don’t follow the federal process exactly, it may jeopardize their ability to obtain mitigation funding.
Dennis Roberts, director of airspace services for the FAA, came from Washington, DC to explain the Airspace Redesign, a massive undertaking to streamline the nation’s flight patterns that began in the late 1990s.
“Over 30 percent of the delays in the whole United States are generated out of the three major airports in the New York area,” Roberts said, adding that it’s critical to improve efficiency and reduce delay in the New York airspace so that planes throughout the country are not held on the taxiways burning fuel, generating emissions and creating noise. “Everyone benefits from that,” Roberts said.
“Do you really want to listen to us?” Janet McEneany, president of Queens Quiet Skies, asked Roberts, “because our experience has been the opposite.”
“You said that this process and its results are going to benefit everybody, but I’ll tell you that all along this room are people who live here, who said ‘except us’ because we are the ones who are paying the price for all this efficiency that is going to save money for the airlines,” she added. “Over my head, every day and every night I have planes going at 80 decibels over my head. I really want you to understand how deeply this community feels about this, how deeply angry we are, particularly at the FAA.”
Roberts responded by defining collaboration as the chance for everyone to be heard and committed to working with the communities, but said that he will not be able to solve everyone’s problems and that aircrafts must be on a stabilized course within five to seven miles from the runways.
Bob Whitehair, vice president of Queens Quiet Skies, added that the people of San Francisco were not happy with the use of waypoints, a part of Next-Gen that uses GPS to make sure planes fly specific predetermined courses and that so far they’re unpopular in Queens too.
He mentioned the switch to the TNNIS procedure, which routes planes departing from LaGuardia Airport’s Runway 13 over Flushing, Auburndale, Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck at lower altitudes, which angered many people in the area.
“If that happens for 200 more procedures and we’re not part of that process, and we’re not allowed to see where the waypoints are, we’re going to be very, very unhappy,” he said.
“When you say the word efficiency, that really scares us,” Andrew Rothman, a member of CB 11 said. “It’s great to be efficient, but it has to be done, not at the expense of homeowners and the community, please.”
Barbara Brown urged Roberts to factor “people space” into decisions, noting that in his presentation about airspace, there was no mention of the impacts to people on the ground, “when there certainly is.”
Andrew Brooks from the FAA gave a comprehensive presentation on noise and the Part 150 study. He explained that noise has been measured with NDLs since the federal Environmental Protection Agency said so in 1976 and it uses cumulative rather than single-event noise readings.
The Part 150 study will establish noise exposure maps and use them to come up with a noise compatibility plan, which may consider flight change procedures, designating preferential runways, residential soundproofing, voluntary land acquisition and land-use planning.
In total, each part of the study will take about 18 months for a total of three to five years. Brooks said the roundtable will be involved as a technical advisory committee and there will be significant opportunities for public involvement throughout the process.
Brooks said that if a specific flight procedure is found to be problematic during the study, the FAA may remove it before the study is complete.
He also mentioned a purchase assurance program, in which people would be able to voluntarily sell their homes and the federal government would insulate them and resell them on an open market. However, this is not preferable when it is done in pieces.
There was also some discussion of the bylaws for the roundtable, which have not been finalized. While each airport had its own roundtable at the end of April, this was a combined event.
Most members were in favor, since the airspace is so complex and the procedures are all interdependent, but Barbara Brown and Patrick Evans advocated for two separate roundtables with a coordinating committee.
They maintain that each airport has its own complex issues and this way members won’t have to travel to far corners of the borough.
Members of Queens Quiet Skies objected to this because it would concentrate power with the six to eight people on the committee.
McEneany proposed that the roundtable take a hiatus for the month of July during which members will communicate with each other and seriously work on collaboratively drafting the bylaws, like a Constitutional Convention via an email listserve.
Knoesel agreed, so the group will reconvene in August with a “straw man” and vote on its founding document, formal work plan and schedule.