By Mark Hallum
A Freedom of Information request made by Queens Quiet Skies to the Port Authority has found that flight patterns of commercial jets making the climb above northeast Queens during departure from LaGuardia Airport have increased and account for about 15 percent of the all traffic to and from the international hub.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Vice President of Queens Quiet Skies Brian Will presented the findings at a Tuesday news conference in Bayside.
Queens Quiet Skies is an organization founded in 2012 which has fought to address the issue of airplane noise since the FAA changed flight patterns over the course of the past 14 years. Will has been involved with the activist group since the beginning and is no stranger to data analysis as a fisheries biologist, he said. The FOI request made by Quiet Skies was for information about runway usage data for LaGuardia Airport, which Will extrapolated himself.
“Northeast Queens in 2002 had 57,000 departures over it. By 2016, we are on pace for 100,000 departures. That’s nearly a doubling of the departures over this neighborhood,” Will said, referring specifically to Jackson Heights and Woodside which have seen a seven-fold increase in fly-overs within that period of time. “This is just staggering for me and we’re getting it straight from the Port Authority.”
Will said the increase is not the fault of the Port Authority, which operates LaGuardia but does not control flight patterns. This decision lies with the Federal Aviation Administration, which says any trajectory for departures is dependent on wind and weather. According to Will, this is not the case because winds have not changed in the past 14 years. Flight patterns have changed, however.
According to the data extrapolated by Will, LaGuardia Airport has been perceived as the culprit of delays within the National Airspace System. Although these claims have proven to be unsupported by evidence, the airport has changed its operations to shift this viewpoint.
The data from Port Authority points out that northeast Queens is affected by traffic from runway 13 of LaGuardia Airport. Two main departures routes, the TNNIS Climb and the Whitestone Climb, bring high levels of noise to the borough. Northeast Queens climbs accounted for just under half the departures from LaGuardia in 2014.
Avella, who has long advocated for the reduction of airplane noise, said the data from the FOIA request only proves what many in Queens have known to be true.
“Four years ago, almost to the day, I rallied with community members to call for action by the FAA and Port Authority to reduce the huge increases in noise from airplanes. Out of these protests grew the call for a Community Aviation Roundtable,” Avella said. “These findings show what we have known to be true: Airplane noise in northeast Queens has increased at least twofold. This is why the Port Authority must appoint a facilitator to finally get the roundtable in place so we can speak with one voice when we tell the FAA and Port Authority that enough is enough.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall