Last week, Assemblywoman Marge Markey invited representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Port Authority (PA) to Maspeth Town Hall to answer neighborhood concerns about low-flying planes, as well as give residents an idea of what is being done to cut down on noise.
“I feel like they’re going to land on my roof, and our windows shake,” said Elmhurst resident Roe Daraio. “I’m taking aspirin when I’m in the house with my windows closed.”
Daraio and a number of other community members noted that the noise escalated during the last week of October.
While Mark Guiod, air traffic manager with the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, noted that a rare construction project on one of the runways at LaGuardia was the root cause of frequent planes and noise in the last weekend of October, he noted that there have not been any changes that he knows of that could have created a spike starting over the summer.
“The other thing I hear that’s very frustrating to me is, ‘What’s changed? You’ve done something or you’ve changed something,’ and we haven’t,” Guiod told the residents. “The only thing that ever changes really is the seasonal weather patterns.”
Although some residents suggested that it is more frequent on weekends, Guiod assured, “there is no plan and there is no procedure that on weekends we say to use different runways.”
However, the FAA did begin using a new takeoff procedure out of LaGuardia Airport, which they tested in 2012 for six months and then implemented, that has caused a considerable increase in noise and noise-related complaints in neighborhoods across northeast Queens.
And despite the assurances from the FAA, Elmhurst resident Richard Doyle claims he and his neighbors noticed significantly more plane noise since this past June.
“You can actually feel the vibrations and it actually woke me up before,” Doyle said. “And things don’t wake me up that easily.”
Edward Knoesel, manager of Aviation Environmental Programs with PA, announced plans to upgrade noise monitors by the end of next year.
“We are reevaluating our program to see where and if they need to be placed,” Knoesel said.
Currently, there are only four noise monitors in areas near LaGuardia and 10 surrounding JFK, which together make up one of the busiest air spaces in the country. Conversely, other major airports in the nation, such as Boston and Los Angeles, use upwards of 30 noise monitors each.
Knoesal added that there is also a new website that will provide quicker data within 24 hours versus the previous system that brought in noise reports on a four-day lag. All noise-tracking monitors at the surrounding airports will be replaced by March 2014.
Carriers are notified when planes exceed 112 decibels when landing or taking off, a standard set back in the 1960s, and Knoesel said they levy a $250 fine for infractions at JFK.
One resident was concerned that the $250 fine wouldn’t be enough of an incentive for pilots to adjust their flight patterns to cut back on the noise. “You pay $80 for legroom,” he said.
But Knoesel said that the Port Authority has no ability to change the fine. “That’s the law,” he explained.
Robert Whitehair, vice president of Queens Quiet Skies, said he is optimistic about the ongoing talks for a roundtable discussion group on the matter. The group would include a number of local elected officials, airline representatives, airport executives and stakeholders discussing ways of reducing plane noise throughout Queens.
“We’ve had a couple formation meetings and commitment with the FAA to participate in the roundtable,” Whitehair said. “I’m very hopeful.”
Following the meeting, Markey noted that there are also other organizations, like the borough president’s Aviation Advisory Committee, that also looks into issues with the borough two busy airports.
“This is not a one-day, one-night issue; that’s not going to happen,” Markey said. “Maybe six months or nine months from now we’ll have a follow up to this and see if there has been any relief.”