By Bryan Schwartzman
The Federal Aviation Administration held its final public forum Monday at the Ramada Plaza at Kennedy International Airport on its plans to overhaul how airspace is used and planes are routed.
Officials at the FAA tried to convey the complexities of routing airplanes in the New York area's crowded airspace and listened to concerns about air noise and environmental issues.
Jim Peters, a spokesman for the FAA, said its Airspace Redesign Project should take up to five years and will seek ways to reduce airplane noise in many residential areas.
But many of those in attendance said the event was full of hot air.
“This is a farce,” said Lew Simon, the Democratic district leader for the 23rd Assembly District, which covers the Rockaways and parts of Ozone Park and Woodhaven.
“They are not allowing anybody to get up and speak,” said Simon, referring to the forum, which was broken down into separate booths where participants gathered to discuss different aspects of the initiative. There was no centralized meeting.
Simon said hearing loss and asthma have become major community concerns that are not being adequately addressed by the FAA as a consequence of airplane noise.
A court reporter who was designated to record the community's reaction took down participants' comments verbatim.
Steve Bonini, a Howard Beach resident, said he has suffered a 10 percent loss of hearing from his summer's fishing expeditions in Jamaica Bay under the flight path for Kennedy Airport.
Paul Mader, of the Rosedale Civic Association, said even in the winter he leaves the air conditioning on because of the noise and fumes generated by low-flying planes.
City Council Member Alfonso Stabile (R-South Ozone Park) said the FAA needs to tackle the health and environmental issues faced in communities such as Howard Beach, Laurelton and Rosedale, which are close to Kennedy.
“These facts need to be examined as part of the airspace redesign so that routes can be created that will send these planes away from homes, parks and schools,” Stabile said. “I know of no study ever done on this section of Queens and such a study by the FAA would show concern and compassion for our neighborhoods, which are in fact the FAA's neighbors.”
Carl Zimmerman, the air space manager for the FAA's Eastern Region said, “we think noise reduction is going to be one of the results of the initiative.”
But he cautioned that there would always be airport noise in areas such as Queens where airports are surrounded by heavily populated residential tracts.
Zimmerman said a flight controller does not have time to take houses and communities into account when he is directing a flight route, and only natural barriers such as rivers or bays even show up on flight indicators. The only