Aviation roundtable members argue over structure at meeting

By Madina Toure

(clarifying the history of the roundtable structure)

The highly anticipated New York Community Aviation Roundtable meeting was marked by tension last week as people spent nearly three hours debating everything from the roundtable’s structure to individuals directly affected by airplane noise.

The March 10 meeting at Borough Hall at 120-55 Queens Blvd. had about 40 attendees.

In March 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo put out a press release calling on the Port Authority, the state agency that manages the John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, to start aviation community roundtables with Federal Aviation Administration officials and community representatives for the two airports.

“The governor always intended one roundtable, two committees, one for each airport. One roundtable,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who snapped at Barbara Brown of the Eastern Queens Alliance when she contended the Cuomo’s intention was for two roundtable to be created.

As the discussion continued, there was strong disagreement over whether the governor had called for one or two roundtables to tackle the issue of plane noise over Queens.

In November 2013, Cuomo vetoed a state Senate bill that would have forced the PA to conduct a single study on airplane noise levels in New York and New Jersey. He instead asked that a study be completed for JFK and LaGuardia and that a community roundtable be established.

But state Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway) clashed with Avella over whether the governor intended to call for the creation of one or two roundtables.

Avella introduced legislation in 2012 calling for the Port Authority to do a noise compatibility study to map out high noise areas near the airport, but there was no mention of a roundtable. Titus picked up the bill for the state Assembly in May 2013.

“As the sponsor of the legislation, that was not my legislative intent at all (one roundtable) and our conversations with the governor at all,” Titus said.

Avella introduced a motion at the meeting requesting that everyone honor the one roundtable-two committee structure recommended by the Port Authority, but withdrew the motion once everyone decided to recognize it.

Another part of the draft bylaws discussed at the meeting was a provision that Queens members of the roundtable must live or work within an area affected by average airplane noise near JFK or LGA. One citizen member per airport committee will be selected.

The level of airport noise, called DNL, represents the average sound level over a 24-hour period.

State Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) said the noise requirements for the airport roundtable member excluded people in his district.

But Patrick Evans, a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), said the people at the lowest ends of the economic stratum, which he said includes blacks, Hispanics, Asians and some Caucasians—do not have the luxury of attending the roundtable meetings because they are trying to make a living.

These people, who make up the communities that surround LGA and JFK, experience even greater DNL levels than the average, he continued.

“I remember going to northern Queens, Bayside and I was trying to work with Bayside on these airport issues and some eloquent assemblyman from up in Bayside told me, ‘This is a LaGuardia issue. This is not about JFK,’” Evans said.

Braunstein said he was “sick to his stomach” about the idea of a racial factor.

“I want to see airplane noise alleviated in your neighborhood, in everybody’s neighborhood,” the assemblyman said.

The meeting was held as the House of Representatives passed a short-term FAA bill Monday night without provisions to combat airplane noise, according to U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing).

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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