By Phil Corso
The Bayside-based group established to fight the Federal Aviation Administration over flight noise in northeast Queens has been working with the agency to draft a binding document with hopes of creating an aviation roundtable, its leaders said.
Queens Quiet Skies started as a small group of activists set out to contest changes in flight patterns, which produced a noticeably louder quality of life in their corner of Queens. The group has since grown into a large network, even teaming up with a CUNY Law School class and similar groups in nearby Nassau County with full support from area elected officials.
Community Board 11 member Janet McEneaney helped spearhead Queens Quiet Skies and said she has been working on drafting a memorandum of understanding — almost like a rule book — to create an aviation roundtable to help involve area residents in the FAA and Port Authority’s decision-making.
“Once all the people involved sign it, it becomes an operating agreement for the roundtable,” she said. “This is what they have in almost every other airspace in the United States. It essentially modifies the absolute power of the FAA and Port Authority.”
The concept of an aviation roundtable was first attempted in California three decades ago, McEneaney said, and has been adopted throughout the country with this area as an exception. Each roundtable essentially forms its own board of members with an equal vote and abides by pre-determined bylaws, she said.
Quiet Skies has been pushing forward on creating a roundtable for the region that includes the major metropolitan airports after FAA Administrator Carmine Gallo agreed to participate during a contentious community forum earlier this year in Bay Terrace.
Former airport manager Robert Whitehair, of Douglaston, has been offering his insight and expertise after already going through this process in the past. Years ago he said he helped establish a similar roundtable in San Francisco to fight flight noise.
“Headway was eventually made over the years,” Whitehair said. “We are hoping the FAA and Port Authority will cooperate and agree to review flight procedures before they go into effect.”
The community has been making plenty of noise for the past year, especially in Bayside, since the FAA changed departure and arrival routes at nearby LaGuardia Airport. Residents have reported dramatic increases in airliner noise, and elected officials in northeast Queens have been pressing both the FAA and Port Authority to conduct a more thorough study on how new routes affect neighboring communities.
Earlier this year, U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Steve Israel (D-Melville) teamed up with state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) on the state level to meet with FAA reps and persuade them to give Queens a seat at the table. A bill has since been passed in the state Assembly proposing a full-throttle contour study of how the routes are affecting the surrounding communities.
And if all goes well, McEneaney said a roundtable would be a crucial next step in curbing the noise in Queens.
“We need for people to start signing onto this,” she said. “I’m hoping it will be within the year that we get it up and running.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.