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Queens Quiet Skies member meets with FAA

By Kelsey Durham

The battle for quieter skies in northeast Queens traveled across the country last month as one borough advocate attended a conference to address airplane noise with representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration.

In a meeting of about 170 people, the FAA met with civilians from across the nation in Palm Springs, Calif., in February to hear concerns about increased air traffic and changes in flight patterns that have led to a rise in the amount of airplane noise in residential communities.

Bob Whitehair, a Douglaston resident and vice president of Queens Quiet Skies, made the trip to join the group on behalf of homeowners around the borough who say they have suffered as a result of the increase in noise.

Much of the discussion at the meeting, according to Whitehair, was about complaints the FAA has received from residents who live near major U.S. airports, including LaGuardia and Kennedy in Queens.

Many Queens advocates say much of the noise increase is a result of changes in flight paths that have rerouted more planes over the city and allowed them to fly closer to residential neighborhoods.

Despite all the talk about plane volume, the discussion at the conference mentioned no direct link between the flight path changes and the increase in noise, Whitehair said.

“They didn’t talk much about how it has increased the noise, and I think that was a mistake,” he said. “We would like to see more studies done on that.”

One change in particular, known as the tnnis climb, has rerouted planes over northeast Queens and has led to what some residents say is non-stop noise as aircraft constantly come in and out of LaGuardia and JFK airports.

Whitehair said the FAA is planning on making a significant number of changes to flight plans in large metropolitan areas around the country, and he said Queens Quiet Skies will continue to fight for a seat at the table as the decisions are made.

“The tnnis climb has been a disaster for the citizens of northeast Queens and more of that would not be good for us,” Whitehair said. “We just don’t like the way these changes are being done and they’re not addressing how we are going to have procedures that will result in less noise.”

Whitehair said there were also a large number of presentations given about the environmental impact of the extra air traffic that New York’s airports have taken on, with more than half of the 25 presentations focused on topics such as sustainable fuels and reducing emissions from airports.

He said the group also discussed strategies other cities across the country are using in order to settle similar issues with their nearby airports. The Douglaston resident said one possible solution is to enter into an agreement that would regulate the number of flights allowed in and out of airports and would also closely monitor the noise level that results.

“Noise has really been our biggest gripe all along, and it continues to be, and I think we would like to see some kind of agreement here,” Whitehair said. “These officials are very smart people and are very good at their jobs, but I just don’t think their efforts are focused where they need to be focused.

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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