By Rich Bockmann
The Port Authority has tweaked its plan to rehabilitate a runway at JFK Airport, but some southeast Queens residents still want an in-depth analysis of the impact the revised plan will have on airplane noise.
Last year the agency released an environmental assessment for its proposal to widen and extend runway 4L/22R, which runs northeast/southwest between Jamaica Bay and Idlewild Park, in order to comply with federally mandated safety regulations.
Among a number of improvements, the original plan would have moved the point where aircraft approach the northern end of the runway from the skies over southeast Queens — known as the arrival threshold — 3,316 feet closer to Rockaway Boulevard, resulting in planes coming in lower over the residential and parkland areas.
The Port Authority kept the threshold in its current location when it released its revised assessment earlier this month, but the new assessment still proposes moving the starting point for planes taking off in the direction of Jamaica Bay 728 feet closer to Rockaway Boulevard, and the environmental group overseeing Idlewild Park wants the plan to be studied further.
“They made some concessions in that they are no longer going to move the displaced threshold,” said Eastern Queens Alliance President Barbara Brown. “Basically, the Eastern Queens Alliance is still calling for a full environmental impact study.”
After collecting public comments on the plan, the Port Authority will submit its finalized draft to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval. If the FAA agrees with the authority’s claim that the proposal will have no significant environmental impact, it will give the agency the go-ahead to start rehabilitating the runway, now planned to begin in 2015.
If, however, the FAA finds the changes will cause noise levels to climb above the threshold of 1.5 decibels — or if any of the proposed actions in the 430-page draft are found to have a significant environmental impact, for that matter — the Port Authority will be required to conduct a more comprehensive environmental study before it can move forward.
The noise that emanates from jumbo jets flying over southeast Queens has long been a point of contention with the airport, a major driver of the region’s economic engine.
People are regularly forced to pause in their conversations when planes fly overhead, and Brown said any increase in noise must be considered in the context of existing levels.
“They claim [the planes] are going to be minimally lower, but they can’t be much lower,” she said. “They say it’s not a significant impact because physiologically we won’t notice the difference, but that doesn’t mean it’s right to increase the noise.”
“I’m not so sure about people not noticing, either,” she added.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.