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Queens Chronicle

Cuomo forces PA’s hand on airplane noise issue

Activists cautiously optimistic his order will lead to quieter skies here

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Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:38 am, Wed Nov 27, 2013.

Queens residents who are tired of loud airplanes flying over their homes too frequently are actually happy about Gov. Cuomo’s veto of a bill that would have required the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to conduct a noise and land use compatibility study — if an identical measure passes in New Jersey — because he doesn’t want to wait.

Instead, he’s taking executive action.

“I recognize that aircraft noise has been a concern for residents of Queens County and Nassau County,” Cuomo wrote in his veto message. “Therefore, rather than wait for New Jersey to enact companion legislation that would require Part 150 studies at all Port Authority airports, I am vetoing this bill but directing the Port Authority to conduct noise studies that meet the requirements of Part 150 for LaGuardia and JFK airports and to establish a community roundtable for airport noise and related issues in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and other stakeholders.”

Janet McEneany, the president of Queens Quiet Skies, an organization that formed over the past year to demand better regulations on plane noise, said she was “pleasantly surprised” by Cuomo’s move and thanked him for bypassing the need to wait for New Jersey, where a bill is still moving through the state Legislature. There is no need for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to issue an order for Cuomo’s to take effect.

The bill passed the New York state senate and assembly over the summer, but only reached Cuomo recently, according to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside). He said that he kept track of it, as the assembly parcels out bills to send to the governor so that he has sufficient time to address each one.

The governor’s message “shows a real understanding of the situation,” McEneany said, in that “he focused on the two things that are most important right now, the noise study and the roundtable.”

The Bayside attorney continued, “It’s time for the Port Authority to step up to the plate and start talking to the community. The Port Authority is going to have to get into the habit of looking at community groups as equal partners and people who should be responded to.”

Members of Queens Quiet Skies are “happy and excited,” McEneany said, but cautiously so because they worry that this is “just window dressing.”

The group drafted a memorandum of understanding and bylaws for the roundtable, which would include interested community groups and municipalities from Queens, Long Island, the Bronx, Brooklyn and New Jersey, based on roundtables in other parts of the country, and McEneany fears that the Port Authority will scrap their hard work, start over and not include them.

“We must continue to push to ensure these changes happen and that they happen in the way we want them to happen,” McEneany said. “The message from our members is: We want real change, not for the Port Authority to sweep it under the rug and act as if nothing’s happened.”

The Port Authority said in a statement that it will comply with the governor’s order.

Queens Quiet Skies and the borough politicians who have taken up the cause are waiting for the Port Authority to schedule a meeting to discuss the roundtable. Cuomo did not provide a timeline or deadlines for implementing his orders.

“We want the roundtable up and running early next year,” Avella said. “Why should New York City be denied a roundtable, when every other major city in the country has one?”

Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth), who recently hosted a forum on plane noise and pollution, said in a statement that “this welcome action by the governor should speed up the process of placing noise monitors that will help prove that complaints of our residents are well-founded and remedy them.”

McEneany reported that one Quiet Skies member said Cuomo’s veto shows that “she can have faith now, that if we act together and have a united front we can accomplish something.”

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