Following Queens’ first community aviation roundtable at LaGuardia Airport, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hosted a similar event last Wednesday near JFK to discuss noise and other problems with community representatives from nearby areas.
Ralph Tragale, assistant director of aviation for the PA, began by assuring the attendees that the agency is hiring staff for a new noise office and doubling the number of portable noise monitors.
The purpose of the roundtable, Tragale said, is to facilitate communication and prevent “finger-pointing” by members of the PA and the Federal Aviation Administration with regard to community issues. He explained that while the PA operates the airports, the FAA determines the flight procedures.
Betty Braton, the chairwoman of Community Board 10, however, noted that there has always been communication between the agencies and the communities, mainly through the borough president’s council on aviation.
Janet McEneany, president of Queens Quiet Skies, agreed that the problems didn’t necessarily stem from a lack of communication, but advocated for the roundtable.
She pointed out that most other places in the United States have them, but New York does not, despite having one of the largest and most complex airspaces in the country, with JFK, LaGuardia, Newark and Teterboro Airports so close together.
Jerry Spampanato, the general manager of JFK, described the operations of the airport, which saw a record 50.4 million passengers last year. He said JFK is the sixth busiest airport in the country, 13th in the world for passengers and 17th for freight.
The airport directly accounts for 71,000 jobs and $4.2 billion in wages, but indirectly contributes $30.5 billion to the region’s economy.
The numbers are daunting: six terminals, 125 airline gates and nonstop service to 76 countries and 171 cities. Nine miles of runway and 45 miles of taxiways have a total of 1,200 arrivals and departures per day.
While there was some discussion about the direction the roundtable will take and what sort of bylaws it should adopt, the issue was mostly tabled for the next meeting to give members a chance to read over the bylaws from similar roundtables in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. The PA will also bring a member of an existing roundtable to advise the group.
The attendees were mainly concerned with the noise study Governor Cuomo ordered the Port Authority and FAA to conduct, which is known as a Part 150 study.
The FAA will hire qualified consultants to conduct the study. They will begin by creating a noise exposure map, with contours that indicate the decibel levels in a given area, identify who is impacted and develop mitigation strategies to address the issues.
Tragale said that some members of the roundtable will likely form a technical steering committee to work specifically on the Part 150 by providing input to the consultants and then reporting back to the larger group.
Larry Quinn, a village trustee from Garden City, LI, asked if panelists will have access to the variables used for creating the map.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the Port Authority, having all these noise monitors to see if we can correlate the actual noise on the ground to what this contour map suggests it should be,” he said.
Tragale said they will use an FAA-approved model, but that officials do allow the use of monitoring data and other information to ensure that model is giving accurate results.
“So although you can’t play with the model so to speak or use outside information to determine where the lines are, you can use it to confirm that the model is giving you the result it’s supposed to,” Tragale said.
Andrew Brooks, the project manager for the Part 150 study, said the consultants do adjust the model to account for the ways planes are actually flown, the fleet mixes and different engine settings.
Tragale and Brooks told the group that the model is set and that any deviations to the process-established regulations governing a Part 150 could jeopardize their efforts to attain federal funding to mitigate the noise issues.
That didn’t please some of the residents in attendance.
“The models are presented as though they’re sacrosanct,” Barbara Brown from the Eastern Queens Alliance said. “As any of you who’ve worked on the [JFK] 4L-22R runway know, our community has seriously questioned the use of those models.
“I understand there are rules and regulations about what can be used and what can’t, but I also understand that sometimes for things to change, for things to get better, it’s the people on the ground who help to promote some intelligent change,” Brown added.
A representative for Assemblywoman Michelle Titus complained that the noise monitors in Rosedale are off the main noise corridor and therefore may not accurately reflect the noise impacts the community experiences.
Brown also asked if there is a master plan for JFK airport, since the airline industry is growing and there are constant construction projects to handle the increase. But Tragale said the PA does not pursue master plans since the industry changes so rapidly.
The PA has created separate roundtables for JFK and LaGuardia, but many members agreed that one would better serve their needs, since the issues are similar and the agencies would benefit from a lack of redundancy.