A full audience of Jackson Heights residents raised their hands Monday night when Janet McEneany, the president of Queens Quiet Skies, asked if they were tired of planes flying over their houses every minute, one after another, like a brigade of B52 bombers.
McEneany and Bob Whitehair, founders of Queens Quiet Skies, an advocacy organization that fights for noise regulations, gave their 26th community education presentation as part of a town hall meeting on the issue organized by Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights). Representatives from the Port Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration were also in attendance.
Dromm said that since October, there’s been “a different noise and a different sound in our skies ... it has become a hazard to deal with the noise in our community.”
The Port Authority received a lot of complaints from Jackson Heights residents on the weekend of Oct. 26, when a runway was closed for repairs, according to Ian Van Praagh from the Port Authority, but Dromm said that he would like advance notice of runway closings so that he can alert his constituents.
“The FAA can do what it wants based on federal regulation,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).
Avella noted that while New York City has the most congested airspace, the region has not had a recent Part 150 study on noise and land-use compatibility or an aviation roundtable, where citizens and elected officials can discuss what’s happening at the airports.
“I live right here on 79th Street,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Elmhurst) said. “I hear the planes. I see the planes. I see the jet fuel, sometimes it’s leaking.”
He spoke about Gov. Cuomo’s recent veto of legislation that would require a Part 150 study and establish a roundtable, to avoid waiting for New Jersey to pass identical legislation. The governor’s veto message ordered the agencies to conduct the study and form a roundtable immediately.
“In his veto came something very positive,” Peralta said. “The governor has understood the impact this will have on our neighborhoods.”
McEneany receives hundreds of emails from disgruntled people all over the tri-state area and even from far-flung locales, like Queenstown, New Zealand. However, the volume of mail from the Jackson Heights area surpassed her ability to respond to each one.
“I’m supposed to be retired,” said Bob Whitehair, a former pilot, airport manager and member of an aviation roundtable in California. He noticed the planes flying over his house in rapid succession while retrieving the newspaper one morning and thought, “there has to be a better way to handle this.”
Whitehair added that four noise monitors near LaGuardia and 10 by JFK pale in comparison to Chicago O’Hare’s 30 noise monitors and LAX’s 40.
The Port Authority is in the process of revamping its noise monitors, by installing new ones, which can transfer data in real time using wireless connections, but there aren’t any plans to increase the number of monitors, Van Praagh said.
Dromm requested a noise monitor on the south side of Northern Boulevard, where there isn’t one.
McEneany said that Queens Quiet Skies members have proposed an array of solutions to stop “the noise torture,” ranging from lawsuits to playing big bass drums outside the offices of FAA and Port Authority members.
“The status quo is not acceptable and something has to change,” McEneany said. “We’re waiting for a response from the Port Authority. If they don’t do it, we’re ready to go.”
Mark Guiod, an FAA traffic manager, told the community that they are seeing a change in the FAA culture and called the string of town hall meetings the beginning of a dialogue.
However, he qualified that it is important “to separate myths from facts and work toward realistic solutions,” as people tend to bring a lot of anecdotes and emotions to the issue.