Braunstein bill prompts flight noise investigation

Photo courtesy Edward Braunstein
By Phil Corso

Advocates working to silence the drastic uptick in airliner noise throughout northeast Queens celebrated a victory this week when a bill allowing the Port Authority to investigate their claims passed the state Legislature. All they need now is the governor’s signature.

Lawmakers and activists have spent the past year pushing the Federal Aviation Administration to hear their cries after they noticed a greater airplane presence in communities like Bayside and Douglaston due to reformed departure paths at LaGuardia Airport. The latest victory in the ongoing effort came in the form of a bill requiring the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to conduct an independent noise study — the same type of study the FAA excused itself from conducting.

State Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) lives in the noise epicenter in Bayside and stood with officials last week to outline the legislation and call the FAA out for failing to properly solicit community comments.

“The agency made these changes without any public input or environmental impact studies,” Braunstein said. “I join with my colleagues to urge Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo to sign this important legislation, which would require the Port Authority to conduct necessary noise surveys and hold public hearings about the negative impact increased air traffic has had on our communities.”

The FAA issued a categorical exclusion after changing its air traffic over northeast Queens last year, ultimately excusing itself from having to conduct a proper study of how the changes might affect residents. Borough leaders have since called on the agency and Port Authority to investigate how the new noise might alter property values and quality of life.

“My office continues to hear from homeowners who are irate at the increase in air traffic over their homes, which is causing an intolerable amount of air and noise pollution,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside). “It is unfathomable that the Port Authority, which controls three of the busiest airports in the world in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, has not conducted a study assessing the impact of aircraft noise in residential areas.”

The agency sent representatives to Bay Terrace earlier this year for a contentious community forum and has since agreed to an aviation roundtable with residents and elected officials to silence the complaints.

Community Board 11 member Janet McEneaney has also been at the forefront of community activist group Queens Quiet Skies, which has been working alongside lawmakers to investigate the legality of the FAA’s practices.

It has enlisted help from CUNY Law School students to find out if the agency could ultimately have a lawsuit on its hands for failing to properly detail how increased air traffic might affect homeowners near the airports.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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