By Madina Toure
Advocates and residents who are working to reduce jet noise and pollution around Queens’ two major airports are still at odds over the number of roundtables needed as well as membership.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a directive in March calling on the Port Authority, the state agency that manages Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, to start aviation community roundtables with Federal Aviation Administration officials and community representatives in April for the two airports.
But different community stakeholders disagree on the number of roundtables necessary to address the problem as well as the roundtables’ membership.
Residents and elected officials in southeast Queens, who are mostly affected by JFK, would like to see one Aviation Community Roundtable for each airport. But where LaGuardia is located, in northeast Queens, the preference is one roundtable.
At the Queens Community Board 7’s monthly meeting this week, Warren Schreiber, chairman of the aviation committee, said both sides make credible arguments but there is still a stalemate over the matter.
“They just can’t find any type of common ground so this is the third or fourth roundtable meeting that just ended with nothing being done,” Schreiber said.
But he noted groups must be able to prove that they have members, hold regular meetings and hold popular elections for positions, calling on the Port Authority to address the question of membership first.
“I thought that they were going about this all wrong,” he said. “I think the first thing they should do is establish the membership and then the membership can go along whether there’s one or two roundtables … Everybody’s appointing themselves part of this and it’s not working out at all.”
The issue was discussed at a roundtable meeting Nov. 20, in addition to two other meetings held in June and in August.
The Eastern Queens Alliance, a federation of civic associations from southeast Queens, supports separate roundtables, while Queens Quiet Skies, an advocacy group that started in northeast Queens, wants one roundtable for the two airports.
In his March directive, Cuomo said the two roundtables would include representatives of local elected officials and would allow all parties to seek mutually beneficial ways to manage noise impacts.
He also said the roundtables would provide communities with suggestions, information and ongoing updates during the separate Part 150 Noise Studies, an $8 million agreement between Port Authority and environmental science associates. The studies would study 65 decibels and day/night levels and for informational purposes, 55 decibels and day/night levels.
On Jan. 28, the Port Authority said both airports had set passenger records in 2014, with 53.2 million passengers at JFK and an airport high of 26.9 million passengers at LaGuardia, according to Schreiber.
The FAA also came up with a solution to address airlines violating their temporary slot assignments. The agency is proposing 81 scheduled operations per hour and two unscheduled operations at JFK and 71 scheduled operations per hour and three unscheduled operations.
This would bring 1,205 slots daily to JFK between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. and 1,136 slots between 6 a.m. and 9:59 p.m. at LaGuardia.
“They would take off more than their allotted slots and sometimes they wouldn’t use them at all and there was no way of giving them to other airlines,” Schreiber said. “So the FAA — they actually want to do something right in this case — they actually want to make the slots permanent.”
Schreiber also said the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2012 expires at the end of fiscal year 2015, meaning Congress would have to enact new legislation to authorize funding and set policy priorities for the FAA.
Reauthorization affects the number of slots, technology such as NextGen engines and the community’s clout, he added.
“It can affect how much of a say we as community stakeholders have in their operation,” he said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4566.