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Queens Chronicle

Queens Quiet Skies fights plane noise

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Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:48 am, Thu May 9, 2013.

Sometimes planes fly over Janet McEneaney’s house in Bayside every 20 to 40 seconds. “The planes are so loud that we can’t even talk to people in the same room,” she said.

McEneaney is a member of Queens Quiet Skies, an organization formed to combat the flight path changes at LaGuardia Airport, which have increased and concentrated noise pollution in Northeast Queens since last year. The group’s immediate goal is to form a community roundtable with the FAA, the Port Authority, residents and civic leaders to solve the problem, as the Federal Aviation Administration has done in other parts of the country.

Queens Quiet Skies is hosting a community education meeting on Thursday May 2, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Bayside High School. There will be presentations about the FAA and the Port Authority, community aviation roundtables and environmental protection laws, among other topics. “We will decipher the jargon, answer questions and talk about what steps we can take going forward,” McEneaney wrote in a statement.

“The FAA has been getting away with whatever they want in New York City for decades,” state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said. “It’s just fascinating that New York City is the only metropolitan area where they don’t have constant ongoing discussions with the community.”

Avella is working with Queens Quiet Skies and putting together a coalition to represent the neighborhoods around LaGuardia and Kennedy airports.

“We need a seat at the table because we’re stakeholders,” McEneaney said. “Right now, the airlines are framing this issue and we want to be a part of the process.”

Avella and Queens Quiet Skies have already written a proposal to establish the roundtable, which is modeled on similar roundtables in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif. They are developing the bylaws and operational guidelines now and Avella said it will start “relatively soon.”

According to McEneaney, Carmine Gallo, the FAA regional administrator, committed to participate in a roundtable at a community meeting on March 14, but there hasn’t been any outreach to residents of affected areas.

The presentation on May 2 will also instruct residents on how to file noise complaints with the Port Authority.

Planes departing from LaGuardia Airport did not climb over Northeast Queens as often until the FAA tested the NextGen program.

According to a statement from the the FAA, the new flight path for planes taking off from Runway 13 at LaGuardia Airport is part of an effort to improve flight safety and efficiency and reduce delays in the airspace.

The FAA conducted an environmental review, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, and determined that the increased use of the NextGen procedure would not produce significant environmental impacts.

The planes have GPS trackers, and the pilots are required to hit waypoints in the sky, which means that planes consistently fly over the same places.

“We used to say, ‘There is no such thing as a lane in the sky,’ like a lane for cars,” Bob Whitehair of Douglaston, a former pilot and airport manager, said. “Now there is.”

The controversial route is called TNNIS because it was initially adopted as a special procedure for the US Open. Now it is standard procedure for planes using Runway 13, which 45 percent of departing flights do, according to Whitehair. That means about 250 planes fly over his house per day, and the number will probably increase over time.

“Planes are not supposed to be over our area below 3,000 feet,” McEneaney said. “But I’m sure they are. There are more of them and they’re lower and louder.”

According to Avella, the FAA neglected to place noise monitors on the ground during the test period. “Down the line they are going to increase capacity and the quality of life in Queens will diminish,” he said.

“This is one of the noisiest and more complex areas in the world,” Whitehair said. “I personally think the FAA took the easy way out and that they could’ve done a better job.”

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