Closed JFK runway is rattling residents

Dan Mundy Jr. and the JFK Environmental Oversight Subcommittee talked about needed studies last Monday night. But much of the meeting covered the reconstruction of runway 13L-31R, and its impact on noise levels as far away as Nassau County’s North Shore.

An ill wind —and an unusually steady south-southeasterly one at that — has residents living north and northeast of John F. Kennedy International Airport calling for some kind of relief from increased jet noise that has accompanied the start of reconstruction of Runway 13 Left-31 Right.

Both the Port Authority of New York ad New Jersey, which operates JFK and LaGuardia airports, and the Federal Aviation Administration caught an earful of their own from residents last Monday at a meeting of the JFK Airport Committee. The meeting took place at the PA’s offices at JFK.

The alignment of 13L-31R is west-northwest to east-southeast. It is 10,000 feet long and runs roughly parallel to Rockaway Boulevard.

It closed for reconstruction on April 1, meaning that its regular takeoffs and landings had to be diverted to JFK’s remaining runways.

But the start of construction also coincided with an odd change in the weather.

“For most of April, winds were coming from the south or southeast,” said David Johnson of the FAA.

That has meant nearly two months of an inordinate number of planes coming in from the north to land on runways 22 Left or 22 Right, which run parallel to each other on the eastern end of JFK and are oriented north-northeast to south-southwest.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Suffolk, Nassau and Queens) told the crowd that resident complaints as far north as Long Island’s Gold Coast have reached such a level that Suozzi and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Nassau) recently had a face-to-face sitdown with FAA and PA officials to get an explanation.

A representative for Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau) told the group that the congressman also has been kept in the loop by both agencies.

Yatsun Lau of the PA said the runway is being replaced with concrete rather than the initial plan to repave it with asphalt.

He said that is to residents’ benefit as it shortens the construction project — 13L is scheduled to reopen on Nov. 16 — and will last 40 years as opposed to 10 for asphalt, meaning more time between construction projects.

Barbara Brown, chairwoman of the committee as well as the Eastern Queens Alliance civic group, asked why some changes couldn’t be made to tweak schedules.

“People are getting all this noise,” she said.

Johnson reiterated the unusual wind conditions. But he also pointed out that airlines set their schedules possibly nine months or more in advance, making it difficult to pull switches on customers.

He also cited the crowded nature of the New York region’s skies.

“The most crowded in the world,” he said. “Even a few changes would necessarily impact LaGuardia, Teterboro and Newark.”

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