The sound of planes flying overhead could be heard every few minutes as about 100 people attended a meeting on Tuesday in Springfield Gardens with representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration hoping to hear about its plans to reduce noise, among other issues. But the answers they received were bleak indeed.
“We’re not giving you any good news tonight, and we realize that,” said Robert Jaffe of the FAA’s flight standards division. “It’s not going to get better. That’s the situation we’re dealing with. That’s clear. However, if we exclude a mode of transportation like aviation — it will be replaced — because there will be a travel demand.”
Air traffic is expected to increase 50 percent by 2025, according to the FAA.
Agency officials gave an hour-long presentation which several community members said sounded like a commercial for the aviation industry and offered no real answers.
“It seems more like a sales pitch for the airlines, rather than bringing in the pertinent information about how all of this affects our community,” said Dwight Johnson, president of the Federated Blocks of Laurelton, garnering much applause from the crowd. “Nowhere in this presentation were any of the issues that most of the people in our community have addressed.”
The representatives talked about the number of runways at JFK International Airport, the complex job of air traffic controllers and airplane pilots and how many jobs are created nationwide by airlines.
“One of the items we were asked to talk about a little bit is how does having an airport nearby affect the people who live here,” said Diane Crean, deputy regional administrator for the agency. “I don’t have specifics for this area, because that would really come from the airport, but I do have a good presentation on the economic benefits of the aviation industry.”
The only problem they did address in the presentation was the notion that planes have been flying too low. Barbara Brown, leader of the Eastern Queens Alliance, which hosted the meeting, said, “You can almost reach and touch them.”
But Jaffe said that is all an optical illusion and that planes aren’t allowed to fly any lower than an altitude of 1,000 feet over residential communities. He added that pilots, whose top priority is safety, have no incentive to disobey the rules.
While it’s true that plane engines are evolving to become quieter, that was about the only piece of good news offered by the FAA, which was blasted by several civic leaders and at least one elected official. As the need for flights increases, they said, so too will the amount of planes and the amount of noise.
It’s the not the FAA’s job to offer any sound-proofing or noise-reduction solutions, Crean noted. Their only job is to make certain that air traffic is safe.
“We’re not here to paint a rosy picture, or to to tell you anything other than what the truth is,” Crean said.
However, the FAA does have an airport improvement program, which includes assisting airport owners in alleviating noise impact, but the Port Authority has to apply for the aid.
Brown asked why the planes couldn’t be directed to fly over water instead of residential areas. Mark Guiod, of New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, said that is done when possible, but due to the concentration of aircraft in the airspace over the community, sometimes it’s not feasible. Another FAA staffer also noted that planes headed to JFK’s Runway 22 will, at some point, have to fly over eastern Queens because of its close proximity to the strip.
Lonnie Glover, president of the Spring-Gar Civic Association and treasurer of the Eastern Queens Alliance, wanted to know what the FAA plans to do about plane emissions and possible health problems that could result from them. He did not get an answer. But Jaffe did say automotive traffic produces much more air pollution than planes.
“Air craft are a very small percentage of the emissions, when you talk about hydrocarbons in the New York area,” Jaffe said. “Almost all of it is from road traffic.”