As the struggle for quieter skies in Queens continues, lawmakers are calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to increase its transparency.
Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently addressed a letter to the head of the FAA, calling on the agency to keep the public abreast of what goes on during NextGen Advisory Committee public meetings.
The lawmakers requested that the FAA give residents more advance notice and accessible information regarding meetings.
According to the agency, the committee advises and recommends ways to enhance and maximize the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). The FAA conceived NextGen to modernize the country’s air transportation system by improving its safety efficiency, capacity, predictability and resiliency.
But new flight routes set by NextGen have caused many northeast Queens communities to experience increased levels of aircraft noise.
“Many of my constituents who continue to be impacted by excessive aircraft noise related to NextGen want to be heard about how this new technology impacts their lives,” Meng said. “The public deserves to be engaged on NextGen and this engagement must be a two-way street complete with dialogue and input from members of the community and other stakeholders. Increasing access and transparency to these meetings would help ensure this happens, and that committee members listen to their concerns. There should be no barriers that prevent this from happening. It is critical for Acting Administrator Elwell to make the changes we’re requesting and I eagerly await his reply to our letter.”
In the letter, the lawmakers said that the FAA is only required to give the public a 15-day notice prior to upcoming meetings. The committee held its last meeting on July 30 in McLean, Virginia, giving New York residents little time to plan for travel and accommodations.
They also complained that the FAA did not videotape or livestream the meetings for individuals unable to attend meetings.
“For the FAA to modernize air-infrastructure in a meaningful and comprehensive way, they must hear from affected community members,” said Schumer. “That is why we are demanding that the FAA increase the transparency and accessibility of public meetings held by the NextGen Advisory Committee, which is responsible for advising the FAA on air transportation modernization, including new flight routes, so those [who] have suffered from excessive aircraft noise have a seat at the table and their voices can be heard.”
Lawmakers called on the agency to do the following:
- Ensure that when announcements are made in the Federal Register of the meeting time, they are simultaneously published in a more user-friendly location, such as FAA’s website
- Extend the current 15 days of advanced Notice of Public Meetings with a longer lead time
- Make the NAC meetings viewable and accessible via livestream
“With the FAA planning to convene public meetings on NextGen implementation, which would make changes to air traffic routes and could increase the impacts of aircraft noise in some communities, I am calling on the FAA to make sure that these meetings are made more accessible and transparent for New Yorkers,” said Gillibrand. “The federal officials determining aircraft route changes have a responsibility to listen directly to New Yorkers to ensure that any new routes carefully consider the potential effects on their quality of life. I’m proud to join with my colleagues in this push to ensure that New Yorkers can participate in the NextGen process.”