By Mark Hallum
U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Little Neck) is checking an agenda item off the list by announcing a change to the North Shore helicopter route that sees aircraft flying low over northeast Queens and has been a topic for activists for years.
Suozzi, co-chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus, was able to negotiate with the Federal Aviation Administration to test alternative inbound procedures for helicopters and sea planes the will make them fly farther out over the water and will begin the six-month trial period Oct.15.
The temporary alteration to the route is expected to cut noise by 50 percent, according to Suozzi.
“The communities of Whitestone, Bayside and northeast Queens have suffered from incessant helicopter and aircraft noise. In recent years, air traffic volume has increased dramatically, reaching a point where families cannot enjoy their own backyards without constant noise, making them prisoners in their own homes,” Suozzi said. “The alternative route will dramatically improve the quality of life for affected residents.”
Anxiety, depression and other stress-related conditions can affect the overall health of people living beneath the controversial flight patterns that the Federal Aviation Administration launched in 2012, according to a Columbia University study, which showed the incessant noise experienced by northeast Queens residents could shave a year off of residents’ lives down below.
Residents also experience high levels of noise from two main airline departures routes out of LaGuardia Airport, the TNNIS Climb and the Whitestone Climb.
“The communities of Bayside, Whitestone and College Point have dealt with the onslaught of helicopter noise for far too long,” City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said. “This pilot program will bring immediate relief and improve safety, a win-win.”
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) also hopes to pressure the FAA to reconsider their activities above northeast Queens and in September issued a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao calling for the elimination of the TNNIS Climb.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall