In addition to simply being a nuisance and making it hard to concentrate, studies have also shown that regular exposure to aircraft noise can have serious health consequences.
Many of these changes were done under the radar, to put it politely. In the case of one NextGen procedure that has wreaked havoc over neighborhoods in northeast Queens, the FAA did the barest of environmental reviews and little to no public outreach.
When the FAA was confronted about the obvious changes in 2012, the agency first denied a change was in the works, and then said it was simply doing a six-month review of the flight patterns and would accept and consider public comment. Instead, it quietly implemented the new flight pattern on a full-time basis with little to no warning.
But this week, the governor finally held the Port Authority's feet to the fire and is pushing the agency to get to work on a directive he issued last year, ordering the agency to create a community roundtable where residents' concerns can be addressed, as well as conduct a comprehensive noise study of both LaGuardia and JFK.
It's a good start, but the fight is far from over for the residents who have been advocating for quieter skies. They still need to act as a watchdog to make sure the Port Authority is conducting a good faith effort at getting to the bottom of exactly how noise from the airports is affecting residents, and not simply acting as a lapdog for the FAA.
And the FAA isn't done retooling the airspace over New York City, or the airports for that matter. The FAA last week announced that its own internal environmental review found there would be “no significant impact” associated with expanding a runway at JFK to accommodate larger aircraft, a move that, in part, requires cutting down close to 1,000 trees in Idlewild Park, a natural buffer between the surrounding communities and the airport, because they would interfere with aircraft that is flying lower and lower.
And the Port Authority has committed to overhauling the central terminal at LaGuardia Airport, a move that is long overdue, but not if it comes with the promise of greatly increased capacity and, therefore, increased noise over parts of Queens. If the Port Authority and the FAA can spend billions of dollars giving the airport a makeover for tourists and visitors, they should also be able to invest in studying the noise impacts and working toward solutions for the people who live and pay taxes in New York City.
And lest people think that the implementation of the NextGen procedure out of LaGuardia – known as the TNNIS climb – is the biggest impact this new technology is going to have, keep in mind that the FAA has over 80 NextGen flight patterns in the works for implementation. This was just one of them.
If you aren't impacted by airport noise now and don't think the issue concerns you, just wait a few years; one morning you might wake up to the sound of a jet cruising over your home from seemingly out of nowhere. Just ask folks in northeast Queens.
Yes, news that the Port Authority is finally creating a roundtable and doing a comprehensive noise study – measures that were long ago taken at numerous airports in large metropolitan areas across the country decades ago – is welcome news indeed.
But assuming the Port Authority does its due diligence, residents who have been active on the issue will simply finally be in possession of data about the impacts that the FAA has historically been unwilling to share. That's when the real battle begins.