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By Phil Corso

After more than a year, northeast Queens activists marked a key milestone in their ongoing battle to curb unprecedented airplane noise over residential areas.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a state Senate bill last week that would have forced the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to conduct a single study on airplane noise levels in both states, which also would have required approval from both governments.

Instead the governor demanded a study be completed for New York’s major airports and a community roundtable be established to give affected residents a seat at the table.

“I recognize that aircraft noise has been a concern for residents of Queens County and Nassau County,” Cuomo said in a note to the veto.

Janet McEneaney, founder of the Bayside-based activist group Queens Quiet Skies, set out in mid-2012 to create a community-based group to combat the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to revise departure and arrival paths out of LaGuardia Airport. The group’s message quickly snowballed over the past year into the entire borough, and McEneaney said she was glad to see one of her core goals finally achieved with the aviation roundtable.

“Our organization has advocated to bring to New York City the same level of environmental studies and stakeholder participation in aviation decisions as is found in every other major city in the United States,” McEneaney said. “Gov. Cuomo demonstrated his understanding of this situation by vetoing a bill to have the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey conduct the same kind of noise compatibility studies that have voluntarily been undertaken in more than 250 municipalities in America.”

Lawmakers throughout northeast Queens from every level of government united over the past year to get the FAA and Port Authority to simply solicit more community input when considering flight paths, and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) joined other federal reps in welcoming the move to establish a roundtable.

“Our advocacy and efforts to establish a community roundtable have finally paid off, and we’re thrilled to deliver this great victory to our constituents,” Meng said. “Establishing a community roundtable has been a top priority of mine and many of the people I represent, and it’s critical to our community’s fight against airport-related issues that impact the quality of life in Queens.”

Meng, along with several other lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), fired off a letter to the Port Authority in July requesting the roundtable to help address ongoing and future concerns in the metropolitan area.

“Residents living among the highest air traffic in the country should have every opportunity to present their views to the appropriate authorities and a vehicle to gather information and hold people accountable,” Schumer said. “That’s why I’ve been working closely with the New York delegation to fight for the creation of this roundtable.”

Moving forward, McEneaney said there was still work to be done, which included keeping the public educated about the roundtable and increasing community influence in airport flight procedures.

“Queens Quiet Skies thanks Gov. Cuomo for his important action today on behalf of all Queens residents,” McEneaney said. “Until now, the New York City metro area has lagged far behind all other areas of the country when it comes to safeguards against excessive airplane noise and pollution.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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