Legislature approves airport noise study, now awaits Jersey
by Shane Miller
Jun 25, 2013 | 3202 views | 1 1 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A bill requiring the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to undertake a noise and land use compatibility study for JFK and LaGuardia airports passed both the State Senate and Assembly just before the legislature went on summer break.

The bill also requires that the Port Authority hold biennial public hearings to address aircraft noise issues.

The legislation now awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo's signature to become law. Once the bill reaches the governor's desk, which has not happened yet, he will have ten days to sign or reject it.

A spokesperson said the governor's office was still reviewing the bill and had not yet made a decision. State elected officials planned to hold a rally in New Hyde Park Wednesday morning urging Cuomo to sign the bill.

However, the legislation must also pass the New Jersey state legislature, as well. A similar bill, introduced by State Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, has been introduced in the New Jersey State Senate, but is still in committee.

Ruiz, whose constituents around Newark Airport have also been experiencing a sudden increase in aircraft noise, said she was optimistic about the bill's chances of eventually passing.

“It's a consumer-friendly bill just asking for the agency to undertake a study,” she said.

The increased use of a departure pattern out of LaGuardia Airport over the past year has resulted in increased noise over neighborhoods in northeast Queens, including Flushing, Bayside, and Douglaston.

The changes are part of a new GPS-based system of air traffic control known as NextGen that utilizes Runway 13 at LaGuardia more frequently. However, it also results in planes flying closer to the ground in more precise patterns over northeast Queens.

Members of the Queens Quiet Skies have been calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct a full environmental review of the new procedure. The FAA counters that it undertook the necessary reviews prior to implementing the new procedure during a 180-day test last summer.

“After conducting an environmental review as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the FAA has determined that the increased use of this NextGen procedure will not produce significant environmental impacts, as defined under NEPA,” said an FAA spokesperson. “The FAA expects the procedure to improve flight safety and efficiency and reduce delays in the New York airspace.”

However, complaints to the Port Authority about noise from LaGuardia have been steadily increasing. Between March and April of this year alone, complaints from Queens about airplane noise jumped from 48 to 345. In May, Queens Quiet Skies began asking residents to forward their complaints to the group, and have so far collected close to 500.

Local elected officials met with FAA representatives last month, and the agency agreed to share with them and members of Queens Quiet Skies the data that led the FAA to conclude the changes would not have a significant impact.

Queens Quiet Skies has also been pressuring the FAA to create a Community Roundtable, similar to ones that have been set up at other airports around the country, to address noise issues.

Senator Charles Schumer supports that effort.

“Senator Schumer has been closely monitoring the issue of aircraft noise and has been working as a liaison between constituents and the FAA,” said spokesperson Marisa Kaufman. “The senator...supports the idea of a Community Roundtable to address aircraft noise concerns.”

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June 28, 2013
Important to understand what the FAA means by significant environmental impacts. This is an increase in 1.5 decibels of aircraft noise in the 65 decibel noise contour. In other words, aircraft noise can increase materially outside of the 65 decibel noise contour without generating a significant noise impact. The 65 decibel contour only is in very close vicinity to the airport.