By Mark Hallum
Recently elected U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Huntington) will be undertaking a leadership role in the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus as co-chairman, a position formerly held by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing).
Meng has served as co-chair since the caucus was founded in 2014 to mitigate the issue of airplane noise resulting from flight path changes to and from LaGuardia Airport and JFK in the past several years. Suozzi included resolving noise pollution from aircraft as one of his campaign promises, which he spoke about at a town hall in Whitestone in May, prior to his victory against state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola).
“People living on Queens and Long Island have been dealing with bothersome air traffic noise at LaGuardia and JFK for too long now,” Suozzi said Monday. “I said that I would work hard to try to solve this serious issue and I recently co-sponsored legislation that would help local stakeholders better understand the health impacts of prolonged exposure to air traffic noise. It’s time for all local stakeholders to come together and work to reduce noise pollution.”
Although Suozzi did not have a concrete plan to reduce noise above Queens, he said he would make it a priority to start working with fellow lawmakers who have dealt with the issue such as U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“It has been an honor to serve as co-chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus and I am pleased to pass the torch to Rep. Suozzi who has been active on this issue since day one,” Meng said. “I will remain an active member of the caucus, and will continue to lead the fight in combating the excessive airplane noise that exists over Queens.”
A spokesman for Meng did not elaborate on the reason she will no longer be co-chair.
Meng also congratulated U.S. Rep. Eleanor Norton (D-DC) who will serve as co-chair alongside Suozzi, and vice chairs U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigly (D-Ill.)
FAA data regarding departures and arrivals from LaGuardia Airport were revealed in a Freedom of Information Request by Queens Quiet Skies, an organization dedicated to advancing the roundtable discussion between residents, elected officials and state and federal agencies involved with mitigating noise.
Vice President of Queens Quiet Skies Brian Will presented the data he extrapolated at an August new conference in Bayside.
“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 FAA, 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.
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.
Correction: Meng said she will be passing the torch because “it is important to give others an opportunity to serve in a leadership position on this issue.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall