Port Authority moves ahead with airport noise studies
by Shane Miller
Mar 26, 2014 | 3600 views | 1 1 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Port Authority is moving ahead with Governor Andrew Cuomo's directive to create community roundtables and conduct a comprehensive study to address noise issues related to LaGuardia and JFK airports.

According to a statement released by the governor on Monday, the community roundtables will begin meeting in April, and the agency is committed to doubling the existing portable noise monitors – bringing the total number of monitors at LaGuardia to eight - as it prepares for what is known as a Part 150 noise study.

The Port Authority will also hire an aircraft noise consulting firm to assist in studying the noise effects on communities surrounding the airports.

“I am thrilled that our efforts to establish an airport advisory committee and install more noise monitors are finally moving forward,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng, who along with 11 other federal elected officials last year signed a letter to the FAA calling for the creation of a roundtable to address issues related to the airports.

Noise complaints related to LaGuardia Airport alone went up by nearly 10,000 over the last year, from just over 1,100 in 2012 to almost 11,000 in 2013, an increase the Port Authority attributes to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) use of a new takeoff procedure from the airport.

“The number jumped significantly in 2013, which the Port Authority overwhelmingly attributes to the FAA's then-newly implemented TNNIS departure route,” wrote a Port Authority spokesperson in an email.

The FAA declined to comment directly on the uptick in noise complaints or the Port Authority's belief that it is the result of the controversial new flight pattern, only stating that it did its due diligence as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it instituted the new flight pattern.

“The FAA conducted an environmental review of the LaGuardia Airport Runway 13 TNNIS departure procedure, as required by NEPA,” the FAA said through a spokesperson. “The agency determined that the increased use of the procedure would not produce any significant environmental impacts, as defined under NEPA.”

The use of the TNNIS climb is just the first step in implementing what is known as NextGen, a switch of the nation's air space to a GPS-based system to reduce delays and increase airport capacity. NextGen allows for more planes flying routes closer to the ground, impacting neighborhoods such as those in northeast Queens that never experienced recurring issues with airplane noise in the past.

“When the FAA recklessly disregards the residents of Queens, the agency is bound to hear from them, and it’s no surprise that they did,” Meng said of the increased noise complaints. “We must continue to let the FAA know that they have not done right by Queens, and that their lack of environmental studies for new routes is a slap in the face to all who live here.”

Elected officials from the local to the federal level have been calling for more comprehensive environmental reviews as the FAA moves ahead with implementing NextGen. In the case of TNNIS, the FAA relied solely on computer models instead of real data from noise monitors to determine its use would have no significant impact.

Meanwhile, a group advocating for improvements at New York City-area airpots, the Global Gateway Alliance (GGA), sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta last November urging the FAA to resist conducting a full environmental review of the TNNIS procedure, as has been called for by some elected officials and community groups, most notably Queens Quiet Skies (QQS).

The group argues the review would hold up the implementation of NextGen even further.

“Our position on TNNIS Climb hasn't changed,” GGA's executive director, Steve Sigmund, said when asked about the noise complaint figures. “NextGen can't continue to get derailed if we are going to improve New York/New Jersey airports. In 2013, LaGuardia was the second most delayed airport in the country. The TNNIS climb is needed.”

The Port Authority met with with the Town-Village Aircraft Safety & Noise Abatement Committee on Long Island Monday night to discuss its implementation of the governor's orders. Bob Whitehair, co-founder of QQS, said it was a start.

“What I see as a problem is the issue with noise in northeast Queens is so bad that people have really high expectations,” said Whitehair. “I hop the Port Authority can live up to those expectations.”

The TNNIS climb is just one of over 80 potential NextGen procedures waiting to be implemented in the New York metro area, and the Port Authority has committed to upgrading and expanding the terminal at LaGuardia Airport, all of which could lead to greater noise impacts over a wider area in the future.

“If they can spend billions of dollars on a new terminal, then they can spend the money to do the proper noise studies of these new flight patterns,” said Whitehair.

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Brian QQS
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March 26, 2014
Sigmund: "In 2013, LaGuardia was the second most delayed airport in the country. The TNNIS climb is needed.”

The TNNIS climb was in use for all of 2013. Why didn't it reduce the delays?