By Bill Parry
A standing-room-only-crowd of nearly 400 concerned citizens packed into the auditorium at PS 69 in Jackson Heights for a town hall meeting on LaGuardia Airport aircraft noise Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sent representatives, who made presentations on noise monitoring and emissions tracking, highlighting safety standards and their efforts to minimize the impact of noise on residents.
FAA Regional Administrator Carmine Gallo said another noise monitors would be placed in Jackson Heights, while PA director of government and community relations Ian Van Praah discussed construction work being done on Runway 22 that directly affects residents of Jackson Heights and its surrounding neighborhoods.
When that runway is out of commission for construction projects on weekend mornings, planes fly directly over Jackson Heights. State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) pointed out that every Saturday and Sunday between 6 a.m.and 9 a.m., an average of 160 planes fly above Jackson Heights.
State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) called the constant noise more than just a nuisance for local residents.
“It may actually have a detrimental impact on health,” he said. “The time has come for solutions that put the needs of residents first.”
Several in the audience suggested the projects on Runway 22, which include paving and maintenance, begin after 9 a.m. as opposed to the current 6 a.m. start time.
“We need quieter skies,” said Peralta, who hosted the meeting. “These are the hours when we are trying to get some rest after a long week at work. This is a decades-old problem, but in the last few years, there has clearly been an increase in airplane noise and complaints in Jackson Heights. One hears the thundering noise from aircraft jet engines several times on a daily basis, and at times, it feels as if the jets are about to land on 37th Avenue. This clearly has a negative impact on our quality of life.”
State Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurt), who lives and works along the flight path to LaGuardia, said, “I’m grateful that we had the opportunity to allow the community to voice their concerns to the Port Authority. And I’m very happy that the Port Authority listened to our concerns.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said, for the first time publicly, that he would reintroduce an updated Silent Skies Act in Congress. When Crowley introduced the original legislation at LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Air Terminal in December 2013, he demanded the FAA require newly developed Stage 4 quieter engines. Since then Stage 5 quieter engines have been developed.
“The Silent Skies Act will require older, noisier airplanes to be phased out.” Crowley said. “It will also require the FAA to adopt newly developed noise standards for all new airplane designs. While these planes can never be truly silent, making their engines quieter will go a long way toward providing the relief our residents deserve.”
Crowley also said he would co-sponsor U.S. Rep. Grace Meng’s legislation, announced Oct. 2, that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to take the lead in combatting aircraft noise over the borough, as well as affected communities across the country. The Flushing Democrat charged that the FAA had “failed the residents of Queens” when she introduced her Quiet Communities Act of 2015.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr