By Phil Corso
Whether the Federal Aviation Administration has finalized its changes in departure procedures out of LaGuardia Airport or not, elected officials from northeast Queens said they would not go down quietly.
Borough leaders, including state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), U.S. Rep.-elect Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), joined with more than 50 area residents Saturday morning to protest FAA plans, which have led to complaints of air and noise pollution.
“The FAA is in for the fight of its life,” Avella said, calling on elected officials on the national level to add their voices to the battle. “This is a winnable fight, but it is going to take each and every one of us to get involved.”
The FAA did not return requests for comment.
Avella said he and Braunstein had initially met with the FAA Sept. 6 to discuss changes the agency was testing related to departure and landing patterns at LaGuardia. In that meeting, the senator said the FAA had just finished a six-month testing phase of the new procedures and indicated it would go on to examine the data before following up with area elected officials and northeast Queens communities.
But that follow-up meeting never came.
According to Avella, the FAA has already submitted an environmental review of its testing phase and issued a categorical exclusion, allowing the agency to make the new procedures permanent. But the FAA did not respond to requests for a copy of the report.
Since then the senator said he has called for action from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood, demanding that the FAA conduct a full environmental review and engage in open dialogue with the affected communities.
In an attempt to examine the impact from airport noise, Avella also said he introduced legislation that would require the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to routinely conduct noise and land use compatibility surveys, as outlined under federal aviation regulations, and also host public hearings to oversee aircraft noise complaints.
Meng, who will assume her new role as congresswoman in January, said she was anxious to take on the issue of flight noise and air pollution coming out of LaGuardia Airport as she cited those problems as the one of the most discussed in the region.
“We need to let the FAA and Department of Transportation know that the FAA’s mission is to be environmentally responsible and accountable to the general public,” Meng said. “That is exactly what they are not doing now.”
Avella said he hoped other leaders on the national level, including Rep. Steve Israel (D-Hauppauge) and U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), would lend their political influence to the cause.
The elected officials were joined by community leaders from areas covering Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside, Whitestone and Flushing.
Janet McEneany, a member of Community Board 11, has helped lead the charge in northeast Queens to push back against the FAA and demand the FAA give residents a seat at the negotiation table.
“This is a stealth proceeding on the part of the FAA and Port Authority,” McEneany said. “The FAA makes decisions for the benefit of the airline industrial complex and we are nowhere on their list.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.