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Advocates discuss noise at aviation roundtable

By Kelsey Durham

Residents fighting to reduce plane noise near the city’s three major airports got an update from the Port Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration last week about the status of a much-awaited noise study and the steps being taken to address other community concerns.

About 100 people representing different groups and interests gathered inside a hangar at Vaughn College in Flushing as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey hosted its second roundtable meeting June 18. The agencies gave presentations on their continuing efforts to work with homeowners in nearby neighborhoods who say changing flight paths and an increase in plane traffic have led to the deterioration of their quality of life.

One of the most significant topics discussed was the ongoing planning of the Part 150 noise study that Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the Port Authority to conduct by signing legislation last year calling for a series of actions meant to address increasing noise complaints from residents.

Ed Knoesel, senior manager for environmental and noise programs in the Port Authority’s aviation department, said the agency will soon begin accepting requests for proposals from contractors interested in conducting the study, which measures noise levels coming from planes overhead.

“We’re at the point where we’re very close to advertising the solicitation for the Part 150 study,” he said. “We’re looking at highly qualified consultants who have experience doing 150 studies.”

Knoesel said the agency was giving the option for contractors to submit a bid to complete the study at either one airport or both LaGuardia or John F. Kennedy International airports. He said the Port Authority has already received several strong résumés, but Knoesel said the agency is not authorized by law to reveal who is being considered for the job until a hire is complete.

The Port Authority also announced that it was given approval to purchase 36 new portable noise monitors to be placed around the New York and New Jersey areas, and two have already been placed in locations in Newark, N.J., and Bayside. Knoesel encouraged residents to come to the Port Authority with any suggested locations for future monitors to be placed and said the agency would determine if it was an eligible area.

The FAA also gave an update on the organization’s plans to redesign flight paths and airspace in order to accommodate the growing number of planes the area’s airports now see. Dennis Roberts, director of air traffic organization airspace services, said the FAA is also working on switching from a ground-based GPS to a satellite system that will be more efficient for planes and travelers.

“This is the most complex, complicated airspace in the entire world,” Roberts said of New York City. “It’s unbelievable how close these airports are to each other and what happens at one airport affects what happens at another.”

Roberts said the FAA was committed to working with residents in order to compromise and meet goals that both sides have, but some community advocates were not convinced.

“Are you really going to listen to us?” asked Janet McEneaney, president of Queens Quiet Skies, who said her past experience with the FAA has been the opposite. “You want fewer delays and to save money, but every day over my head I have planes flying at 87 decibels. We want you to understand how deeply this community feels about this issue.”

The Port Authority is planning another roundtable meeting for sometime in the fall and the agency said it is also working on opening its noise complaint office in the near future. In the meantime, community residents said they hope the Port Authority and the FAA will continue to listen to their concerns.

“You keep talking about ‘efficient landing,’ but efficient landing in this case has been a horror story,” said Andy Rothman, a Community Board 11 member. “It’s great to be efficient, but not at the expense of a community.”

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

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