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Image via Creative Commons
Image via Creative Commons

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is being directed to take an updated look at the way it measures aircraft noise and its effects on surrounding communities in Queens and other parts of the country.

The FAA will evaluate alternative metrics to the current Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) method of studying the airplane noise. The measure was introduced as a provision in the newly enacted omnibus appropriations bill.

Queens Congressmembers Grace Meng, Tom Suozzi, Joe Crowley, Greg Meeks and Hakeem Jeffries, who are each members of the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus, announced the provision on April 2.

Under the DNL method, aircraft noise is measured on a scale that averages all community noise during a 24-hour period, with a tenfold penalty on noise that occurs during nighttime and early morning hours.

The system was the result of a transportation noise survey conducted in the 1970s. In 1981, the FAA established “DNL 65 decibels” as the guideline at which federal funding is available for soundproofing or other noise mitigation.

Instead of producing recommendations based on actual noise levels, lawmakers said, the current measuring method relies on modeling and simulations to determine “annoyance” levels. This system is antiquated, according to Meng, who represents areas including Bayside, Flushing and Elmhurst.

“The metric of 65 DNL has long been outdated and does not adequately measure the true impact of aircraft noise,” said Meng, founding member of the caucus. “That is why it’s time to for the FAA re-evaluate it.”

Suozzi, who represents a portion of northeast Queens and Long Island and serves as co-chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus, also backed the provision.

“Queens and Long Island residents deserve to live in peace and quiet,” he said. “This provision will require the FAA to take important steps in addressing noise reduction so people are not bombarded at all hours of the day and night.”

Queens residents, especially those in northeast communities like Bayside, Flushing and Whitestone, have fought an uphill battle against aircraft noise in recent years. Data released from a sound monitor installed in Flushing in August 2016 revealed noise jumped beyond 65 DNL about a third of the time measured.

In 2017, Suozzi announced the FAA would take a series of steps to study and work to alleviate constituents’ distress after hearing concerns voiced at a town hall meeting in Whitestone.

Queens is home to LaGuardia and JFK International Airports, two of the busiest in the country. In 2015, the FAA announced a multi-year effort to update scientific evidence on the relationship between aircraft noise exposure and its effects on communities around airports.

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