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Public Activism Called For on Noise Issue

Residents Remain Disturbed Over New Flight Patterns

Residents and officials in the Village of East Hills are now taking an active role in the ongoing issue of air traffic noise in the North Shore.

A meeting held at the village’s theatre last Wednesday night attracted up to 70 people as local activists and those from as far away as Brooklyn spoke on how local residents can fight mammouth federal bureaucracies.

Len Schaier of Port Washington, president of “Quiet Skies Over North Hempstead” had one overlaying message: Contact and influence Senator Charles Schumer. Schumer is, of course, the state’s senior senator and Schaier emphasized that his influence is all-important. Only Schumer, Schaier said, can influence the state’s Democratic Party congressional delegation, especially those from Long Island, plus Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who, as Schaier noted, is running for re-election this year.

“Schumer is key,” Schaier claimed. “If we don’t get him on board, we’re not going anyplace.”

During his presentation, Schaier said that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) did not analyze the economic impact of the re-direction of flight patterns, namely landings into local airports, including John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens, where most of the discussion now centers around.

Schaier said that new flight patterns have resulted in less noise for residents in Westchester County, but with that same noise being transferred to the North Shore. He also claimed that the Town of North Hempstead did not receive the necessary attention from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) when the plan was being drawn up and put into practice. Schaier praised TNH Supervisor Jon Kaiman for being responsive to residents’ concerns. Schaier did add that he was present at a meeting with both Kaiman and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D. -Flower Hill) on the subject. Schaier said that Senator Schumer has introduced a piece of legislation that addresses the flight issue, one that does not have any accompanying legislation in the House of Representatives. But he did add that Rep. Ackerman has written a letter to the chairman of the House of Representative’s Transportation Committee on the same subject.

In addition to influencing Sen. Schumer, Schaier—-along with others who addressed the audience—-stressed the absolute importance of delivering a public comment to the FAA before the March 7 deadline. The FAA, he said, is moving into its “Next Gen” phase of new flight patterns, and public comment is essential. Among public concerns, Schaier said, should be a more comphresive EIS by the FAA.

Traveling all the way from Brooklyn to speak was Jeffrey Starin of “Prospect Park Quiet Skies.” He, too, gave a message of public activism.

“Be persistent,” he said, while telling how his quiet Park Slope neighborhood was, in his words, not just being affected, but being “destroyed” by new flight patterns.

Starin said residents should “confront” the FAA “in areas where they have no jurisdiction,” namely over provisions in the Clean Air Act. Here, residents can ask for a supplemental EIS to be conducted with the Clean Air Act in mind. Starin also emphasized the importance of the March 7 deadline for public comment. “You must get comments in on record before March 7,” he said.

Starin also said that residents should maintain the lawsuit option. The next speaker, East Hills resident Neil Forrest said they he didn’t think legal action, at least against the FAA, as viable, but as with the other speakers, he counseled a “mass of complaints” to elected officials, especially Supervisor Kaiman, Rep. Ackerman, and Senators Schumer and Gillibrand.

Forrest said he has been living in East Hills for 22 years, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that life in his neighborhood changed dramatically.

“I heard the planes every 30, 40 seconds,” he said. [It was like] living next to a runway.”

Forrest believes public activism can be successful. He advised residents to call the 311 number every time they hear a noise. Forrest added that in his case the New York Port Authority now monitors flights over his house.

And so, Forrest believes that residents should focus on the Port Authority as that body is legally obligated to confront the noise issue. Forrest also said that noise from flight patterns varies during the day. However, when he said that noise is low during school hours, he was disputed by a teacher from Manhasset High School who said she had a class interrupted due to excessive helicopter noise.

East Hills resident and civic association leader, Judi Winters and board of trustees member, Clara Pomerantz, chaired the meeting. Quiet Skies Over North Hempstead issued a list of talking points to attendees. They included how to file form letters before the March 7 deadline, emphasizing that landings and not takeoffs constitute the major complaint by residents, gathering data and meaningful noise reports, also emphasizing required EIS in the next FAA Reauthorization Bill, capturing aircraft causing noise through screen shots, and looking into the effects of air pollution by gas spill dispersion, noise pollution, decibel and other related noise factors.  

According to published reports, the new patterns have been in the works for decades, with its major goal one of reducing the airspace between New York and Philadelphia, one that is hoped also to both reduce delays and increase arrivals.

A spokesman at the FAA’s Queens County office told Anton Newspapers last January that a noise level increase would not take place in the North Shore area, including Roslyn, Manhasset and Port Washington. The spokesman said that while designing the airspace changes, the FAA had them analyzed by noise level experts, who affirm that there will be “no new noise” for the North Shore.

In addition to JFK and Farmingdale’s Republic Airport, MacArthur Airport in Islip will also see air flight changes.