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Rep. Carolyn McCarthy Lays Out Legislative Priorities

Talks Tough on Aircraft Noise, Gun Control

For Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, abating aircraft noise, and stopping terrorists from obtaining guns are among the top priorities on her legislative agenda. The 4th Congressional District incumbent sat down with editors of Anton Community Newspapers last week to discuss various topics ranging from education to imposing legislation to deal with childhood obesity.

McCarthy started working on childhood obesity when she took over the chairmanship of Education and Labor Committee four years ago. She said that when she was considering the position, she researched the subject and it entailed everything she would want to work on.

“I started working on childhood obesity mainly because I thought that our children today who are growing up to be adults are not healthy,” she said. “When the National Pediatric Association came out and started talking about putting 12-year-old children on cholesterol medication, that pushed it.”

McCarthy has represented the 4th Congressional District since 1996 and serves as a senior member of the Committee on Education and Labor. Since 2007, she has been chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities, where she plays a role in reauthorizing and drafting legislation to protect children. McCarthy has held congressional hearings on topics such as improving childhood nutrition and reducing cyber-bullying among youth.

McCarthy said her constituents are concerned with many local issues, but aircraft noise remains one of the most problematic. She says she sympathizes with residents as she has also been adversely affected living in Mineola. “Believe me, I understand it more… I am in the pathway, the wheels go down over my house,” she explained. “For the Garden City area, New Hyde Park, Floral Park, and then obviously going into the Five Towns area — it’s bad. I mean there’s no two ways about it.” She went on to say that she has met with different parts of the villages that have had the complaints and brought them to the FAA. She said she was also concerned about the most recent incident of an access door falling off an Alitalia jet that landed in front of the Courthouse Building in Mineola.

McCarthy said that it is her job to find solutions for problems that constituents have on both local and federal levels. She recently met with Mr. J. Randolph Babbitt, the director of the FAA to visit the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) so that he could see that the five miles of air space between LaGuardia, JFK and New Jersey and the East End. “We still have the busiest airports and we don’t have the land...We’ve also put in legislation where right now they’re in a stage, what they call a 3-stage engine, which is certainly a lot better than the first stage engine that used to come roaring over, and we’ll be going into the 4-stage engine, which will make it a little better,” she said.

The Congresswoman was realistic about solving this issue that has been affecting local residents’ quality of life for a long time. “Are we going to always have a problem in this area. Yes, we will. Are we trying to make it better? Legislation that I have introduced especially for a lot my constituents that have a real problem with planes coming over maybe because they are sick… to try to get money that could be available for them to at least soundproof the house. We have it in certain areas, but I want to expand that because the plane noise is noisy for all of us,” she explained.

 Imposing fines for planes that dip below required altitude levels is something McCarthy says may be considered in the future. “They have to be strictly enforced. Let the airlines start to get fines on this,” she said. McCarthy has been working to get more things in place on noise reduction because that would make a lot of lives more comfortable. “It’s annoying and to me it’s a health hazard,” she added.

When asked if she has made progress on gun control during her seven-term tenure, McCarthy admitted there have been many obstacles. “That’s probably been the toughest issue for me. They [National Rifle Association] have become so powerful. I went against my leadership on a number of bills because they carved out an area for the NRA and on principle I just couldn’t vote for them.”

McCarthy says that her biggest victory on the gun control issue was in 2007 when the house passed a federal gun control law spurred by a shooting in Lynbrook and, subsequently, the Virginia Tech campus killings. The bill improves state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to stop gun purchases by people, including criminals and those adjudicated as mentally defective, who are prohibited from possessing firearms.    

On other gun control issues, McCarthy raised her ongoing concern about individuals who appear on the terrorist list but are still able to buy a gun. In 2009, the congresswoman introduced The No Fly, No Buy Act, a bill that merged the TSA’s no-fly list with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a point-of-sale system for determining eligibility to purchase a firearm in the U.S., Guam, and Puerto Rico. “We got that [bill] passed from the house to the senate and President Bush signed it. It’s a good bill, it’s making a difference.”

 While gun control is one of her champion causes, she says will continue to address all the issues that affect the constituents in her district. “My opponents will basically say that I’m a one-issue person. There’s no such thing as being a one-issue person, you can’t be a one-issue person. Will I always remember why I went to Congress? I will never forget that and I will never stop fighting for what I believe are common-sense laws. But I have spent the last 14 years educating and getting involved on things that, in my opinion, affect my district. A lot of members of Congress never get a bill signed by the President; I’ve had two already...”  

(Rich Forestano contributed to this story.)