Reports of a large construction project involving runways at JFK Airport, slated to begin in June and continue throughout the summer, prompted Floral Park Mayor Ann Corbett, Trustee Gerry Bambrick and members of the Floral Park Air Traffic Safety and Noise Abatement Committee (FP-ATSNAC) to meet with aviation officials.
David Siewart, air traffic manager at the JFK Traffic Control Tower, Tom Block of the New York-New Jersey Port Authority, Paul Greco, support manager of Airspace & Procedures and Bill Huisman of the Aviation Development Council discussed the planned construction work and its impact on air traffic patterns during the coming summer with Mayor Corbett, Trustee Bambrick, liaison to the FP-ATSNAC, Noise Abatement Officer Stuart Rebish, FP-ATSNAC members Bob O'Gorman, Lana Vogel and Carolyn McGuire and Trustee Tom Tweedy.
There will be extensive electrical and reconstruction/repaving work done. Much of the work, at an estimated cost of $178 million, will take more than a year to complete (June-October of each year). When work of such magnitude is undertaken at airports, air traffic patterns are altered even though work is done primarily during evening hours.
Because of the potential for more night flights over Floral Park, discussions with aviation officials centered on possible ways to diminish the impact of runway closures on the community and the western Nassau region. The aviation traffic representatives listened to concerns and stated they will "seriously" explore the possibility of changing the requirement for pilots to only use the instrument landing approach (ILS) during the night hours when runways are closed.
New technology may reduce the necessity for pilots to use ILS at night. Visual landing approaches (VOR) offer more variations and would have less impact on residents living under the ILS approach. This summer, daytime air traffic over Floral Park and neighboring areas is unlikely to be impacted by the construction work at JFK.
Siewart announced that helicopter pilots are now mandated to fly at an altitude of at least 1,400 feet while following the designated route over the Long Island Rail Road path, which transverses Floral Park. For safety reasons, pilots must reduce this altitude by 500 feet if Runway 22 is being utilized at JFK. Runway 22 is used when weather and wind conditions warrant pilots to use the ILS approach.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made no decision regarding a suggested plan to move the primary helicopter route from above the Long Island Rail Road north to above the Long Island Expressway.
Discussions between Eastern Regional Helicopter Council representatives and FP-ATSNAC members led to a presentation by the Council to the FAA recommending the change in the route now used by helicopter pilots traveling east and west.
Summer helicopter traffic taking passengers to and from the Hamptons has increased significantly and so has commercial traffic. Residents have complained of noise, their houses vibrating and car alarms triggered by helicopters flying overhead.
The FP-ATSNAC formed three years ago. Mayor Corbett established the committee to address residential concerns regarding airplane and helicopter over flights. During the summer of 2001, a historic meeting was held in Floral Park with the FAA, other aviation officials and government representatives, which resulted in a promise to furnish aircraft noise monitors. However, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks destroyed the New York-New Jersey Port Authority data receiving station. No monitors were ever installed locally.
After September 11, the airline industry saw a sharp decline in air travel and faced serious economic problems. The FP-ATSNAC continued its work interacting with residents, government leaders and air traffic officials. Three years ago, Floral Park joined New Hyde Park in becoming a member of the Town and Village Air Traffic and Noise Abatement Committee (TVASNAC), which meets in Lawrence. Most members are located in the Town of Hempstead's Five Towns area. Mayor Corbett and FP-ATSNAC members attend monthly meetings.
Over the past three years, Floral Park has monitored changes in LaGuardia, JFK and helicopter traffic patterns that impact village airspace, worked to establish relationships with aviation officials and has kept abreast of air traffic redesign for the northeast and more.
"Since the sixties and my association with the civic associations I have been acutely aware of the impact of aircraft noise on our quality of life," Mayor Corbett said. "While airplanes have become significantly quieter over the years, they still are intrusive to our residential neighborhoods."
The mayor vowed to continue to work with village board members and FP-ATSNAC members to keep dialogue open between aviation officials, government officials and residents.
"U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, State Senator Michael Balboni, State Assemblyman Tom Alfano and their staff members have supported our local committee's efforts and we look to their continued support," the mayor continued. "Aircraft safety and noise issues are not unique to Floral Park. The northeast region has several airports, air traffic is increasing to pre-September 11 numbers and the population affected by aircraft is in the millions."
Realizing this, the mayor especially appreciates the work of Noise Abatement Officer Rebish O'Gorman, who monitors local air traffic patterns for the committee, Joe Reekie for representing the village at TVASNAC meetings in Lawrence, Trustee Bambrick for his liaison role and all the committee members for their volunteer efforts on behalf of village residents.
"The residents have been most cooperative," she said. "Their letters, telephone calls and other forms of communication with government officials continues to be a valuable avenue for addressing our helicopter and airplane safety and noise issues."
Residents interested in placing their names on the Aircraft Abatement mailing list can call Lauren at 326-6300. Call Mayor Corbett or Trustee Bambrick for more information at 326-6303 or visit www.fpvillage.org for updates.