New York senators want FAA to better tackle aircraft noise

By Madina Toure

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are pushing the Federal Aviation Administration to make some changes after Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Nassau County elected officials asked the two New York Democrats to push the agency to reduce the airplane noise threshold level.

In a letter dated May 19 to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, they called on the FAA to hold public meetings and engagement sessions before changing flight procedures or implementing new flight procedures. They also asked the FAA to hire a full-time professional ombudsman for the FAA Eastern Regional Office and to appoint additional representatives of community advocacy groups in the New York area to the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics’ NextGen Advisory Committee.

“The FAA needs to do its part in helping to address the long-sought relief of airplane noise in the New York-metro area,” Schumer said.

Gillibrand, who offered an amendment to the FAA bill that would have required the agency to phase out older, noisier aicraft engines, echoed similar sentiments.

“The FAA must play an active role in order to find a plausible solution to the growing concern of airport noise residents are currently facing,” she said.

The FAA said it does not comment on pending legislation and that it has received and will respond directly to their letter.

In a letter dated May 6 to Schumer and Gillibrand, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and seven other state senators said Congress is moving into the final stages of drafting legislation to reauthorize the FAA. The letter was based on similar letters previously sent by Assembly members such as Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), Ron Kim (D-Flushing), Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows).

The other Queens signatories included state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights), state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Hollis). They said the noise threshold should be changed from 65 DNL—day-night average sound level—to 55 DNL, a standard deemed acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency, the World Health Organization and the Harvard School of Medicine. “We don’t want to shift the noise from one community to another because that pits one group against another and that’s not right,” she said. “Everybody should benefit from the reduction in noise levels.”

Peralta said the FAA has to step up and address the problem.

“A lot of my constituents are concerned especially now that the airport (LaGuardia) is being considered for renovations and it’s going to take several years,” Peralta said. “One of the main questions I was asked is, ‘Will the flight patterns be changed or switching because of the renovations?’ The answer was ‘no’ but we won’t know until it actually happens.”

Gianaris said Schumer and Gillibrand’s proposals are a step in the right direction.

“Those are all positive steps but the real answer has to be quieter planes,” he said.

Port Washington resident Len Schaier, president of QuietSkies.Net, who has worked with advocates in Queens and other parts of the country, questioned Schumer and Gillibrand’s recommendations.

“It’s stressing all this stuff about community liaison,” Schaier said. “Anybody above the third grade knows you don’t need liaisons, you need fixes, you need solutions.”

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

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