By Bill Parry
Students at PS 85 in Astoria are taught special hand signals to let teachers know when they cannot be heard above the noise coming from the N and Q trains.
Lesson interruptions are a constant interference, sometimes as frequent as every two minutes during rush hour, and the building is just 50-feet away from the elevated train tracks.
“As another school year begins, it is unconscionable that so many children whose schools are located near elevated trains are forced to learn under these adverse conditions,” U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said. “If we are serious about helping our children reach their full potential, providing an adequate and peaceful learning environment is priority No. 1.”
Crowley joined parents and elected officials outside the school to announce new legislation that would help soundproof schools against such noise. His Peaceful Learning Act would give affected schools federal funding for noise abatement.
“My bill would take meaningful measure to help ensure our children’s classrooms are free from the hazardous effects of the constant roar from passing trains,” Crowley said, adding that the legislation would direct the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the impact of railway noise on schools, determine acceptable noise thresholds and assess the effectiveness of abatement programs.
Schools that are considered to be subjected to unacceptable noise levels will be eligible to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, along with local matching funds, to construct barriers, acoustical shielding or otherwise soundproof their facilities.
“We’ve been fighting for classrooms quiet enough for learning to take place at PS 85 for nearly a year now,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “While the MTA took baby steps to fix the problem, it remains nowhere near solved.”
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), whose son Nikolas attends PS 85, said, “All children deserve a school environment conducive to learning that includes a safe learning space without the ill effects of outside noise. Students and teachers at PS 85 and schools across Queens have long had to contend with train and noise disruptions.”
The Peaceful Learning Act is modeled after the Federal Aviation Administration’s Noise Abatement Program, which helps schools close to airports soundproof their buildings to insulate them from the noise of airplanes departing and arriving nearby. No comparable program currently exists at the federal level for schools affected by noise from trains.
“This is great news for the students at PS 85,” state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said. “All young learners deserve a quiet school environment where they can focus.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.