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Queens Chronicle

Pols: FAA group must be more transparent

Meng, Gillibrand, Schumer write agency about NextGen Advisory Committee

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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 11:46 am, Thu Aug 29, 2019.

The Federal Aviation Administration should make public meetings of an industry-connected advisory group more transparent, three members of Congress say.

Along with U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) sent a letter to the FAA requesting more openness with the meetings of the NextGen Advisory Committee.

The group advises the agency on the implementation of NextGen, a program to modernize the United States’ airspace system. Queens residents have criticized the FAA over irritatingly loud satellite-based navigation routes in the initiative.

Agency rules demand that the public notifications for the NAC meetings only have to be published 15 days in advance of them, the lawmakers’ letter noted.

“This leaves interested members of the public little time to make arrangements to attend. For example, the next meeting of the NAC will be held on July 30, 2019 in McLean, Virginia,” they said in the letter, dated July 26. “This gives members of the public in New York State only 15 days to purchase a flight or train ticket for travel—costs for which can rise prohibitively in the days leading up to the travel day—and to book accommodations if necessary.”

Meng, Gillibrand and Schumer also pointed out that the notifications are published in the Federal Register, “which can be difficult for members of the public to navigate when hunting for a specific meeting, and identical announcements are not made on the more user-friendly FAA website until several days afterwards.”

Lastly, the lawmakers noted that opportunity for the public to offer input is further limited because the agency doesn’t livestream the meetings.

Concluding, the congresswoman and the two U.S. senators asked the FAA to livestream the meetings, notify the public about them more than 15 days in advance and simultaneously publish the Federal Register notifications about the meetings in a more user-friendly place, like the agency’s website.

“The public deserves to be engaged on NextGen and this engagement must be a two-way street complete with dialogue and input from members of the community and other stakeholders,” Meng said in a prepared statement. “Increasing access and transparency to these meetings would help ensure this happens, and that committee members listen to their concerns. There should be no barriers that prevent this from happening.”

The congresswoman is a member of the Quiet Skies Caucus, a group of representatives focused on developing solutions to excessive aircraft noise in their districts.

“The federal officials determining aircraft route changes have a responsibility to listen directly to New Yorkers to ensure that any new routes carefully consider the potential effects on their quality of life,” Gillibrand said in her own statement. “I’m proud to join with my colleagues in this push to ensure that New Yorkers can participate in the NextGen process.”

The FAA declined to comment to the Chronicle, saying that it would respond directly to the representative and senators.

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