For the first time in New York City history, representatives of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and the Federal Aviation Administration joined representatives from surrounding communities for a roundtable discussion on the noise and other impacts of flights arriving and departing from LaGuardia Airport, on Monday night.
“Governor Andrew Cuomo made clear his concerns about aircraft noise in communities surrounding JFK and LaGuardia airports and that’s why we’re here tonight,” Ralph Tragale, the Port Authority assistant director of aviation, said. “He’s directed us to take some aggressive action.”
The governor issued the executive order on March 24, almost a year and a half after Queens Quiet Skies formed to advocate on behalf of the people whose homes are bombarded with constant plane noise to the point where it was disrupting their conversations, activities, sleep and overall quality of life.
The first meeting was largely dedicated to presentations on the status of the airport itself and discussions about the functions of the roundtable and the direction it will take. At the moment, the schedule has not been determined and the members have yet to agree on bylaws.
QQS President Janet McEneany laid out the basics. Some core tenets are that roundtable members must represent entities or groups with a stake in aviation, operate under written bylaws signed by all members (except the FAA, which is barred by federal statute) and follow a work-plan to address specific issues in committees, McEneany said.
“Roundtable members — this is a very important principle — they agree that we will not shift noise from one community to another,” McEneany said. “Roundtables all over the United States have found ways to get rid of the noise.”
Queens Quiet Skies recommended forming one roundtable for both JFK and LaGuardia Airports, but the Port Authority chose to form two, one for each airport, but Tragale said that if there are many overlapping issues and the members of both groups support it, the Port Authority will consider consolidating the two.
Roe Dario of the COMET Civic Association also supported one roundtable as communities like Maspeth are subject to noise from both airports, she said.
The Port Authority and the FAA are adding staffers and hiring consultants to conduct a three-year, $3 million study of noise impacts and possible mitigation measures.
The Port Authority is doubling its noise monitoring program and will work with the roundtable members to find locations for the new ones, especially in communities that currently do not have any. If more are necessary, the Port Authority will add them. There are permanent noise monitors at the end of runways so that the Port Authority can inform the airlines when their departing planes violate noise limits and portable monitors in surrounding communities, which look like mini fridges with a microphone atop a tall pole that must be placed in otherwise quiet residential areas.
The roundtable will also ease communications between the communities and the agencies, as there has been a lot of confusion in the past, since the Port Authority operates the airports, but the FAA dictates flight patterns.
“There was always a lot of misunderstanding about what the airport operator does and what the FAA does,” Tragale said. “Sometimes they were at a meeting, sometimes we were at a meeting and people felt they were getting the runaround. This meeting does a lot to establish that we’re both going to be here and you can respond to both of us equally in front of each other so there can’t be any finger-pointing.”
The Port Authority also revamped its website to make it easier for people to register complaints by simply typing in their address and hitting a complaint icon. This will enable the Port Authority to compile data over time and make appropriate changes.
Rosemary Povoromo of the United Community Civic Association was also there on behalf of several politicians and expressed her hope that the roundtables “will not just be venting sessions to tranquilize the masses.
“LaGuardia Airport is our immediate noisy neighbor and we who live in northwestern Queens have suffered its ongoing assault on our quality of life for decades, not only from heart-pounding, earsplitting noise from the thousands of arriving and departing jetliners, but from jet fumes belched from its thunderous engines and both these assaults must be coupled when addressing airport negatives and both if at all possible must be neutralized,” Povoromo said.
“We don’t run these airports to detract from the quality of life, we do it to improve the quality of life,” Tragale said. “The airports are a very important economic generator, the airports provide a lot of jobs and a lot of economic benefit to the city, but it’s very important to us that they be good neighbors and I think we’ve made a lot of progress over the years, but we obviously have some work left to do and that’s why we’re starting these roundtables.”