By MICHAEL GARETH JOHNSON
For hundreds of thousands of residents of Northeast Queens, the sound of airplane engines taking off is as regular as honking horns in Midtown Manhattan or the rumble of subway tracks near Queens Plaza. The reason is LaGuardia’s TNNIS climb, a path airplanes take leaving the airport, which was so named because the path intentionally avoids flying over the U.S. Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Now, Rep. Grace Meng, who represents the vast majority of the parts of Queens impacted by airport noise, is calling for the elimination of the TNNIS climb after a new study found that the increased noise from the use of the climb is having a negative impact on residents’ health — and even blames the noise for some premature deaths.
“This study further illustrates the need to get rid of the TNNIS Climb,” said Meng. “The route has unfairly burdened our borough with blistering aircraft noise ever since it was implemented by the FAA [Federal Aviation Association] in 2012, and this study confirms our suspicions about the adverse health impacts it has on Queens residents.”
Meng has penned a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao asking her to review the matter immediately with the Federal Aviation Association.
“I have met with Secretary Chao and explained to her the importance of combating the excessive airplane noise over Queens. Now, in light of this new study, she must take action. I truly hope that she’ll be our partner in this fight, and provide us with the relief we desperately need. I eagerly await her reply,” Meng said.
The TNNIS climb was originally put in place as a temporary option to reduce airplane noise during the annual U.S. Open Tennis tournament in August and September. Since the implementation of NexGen, a system designed to modernize air-traffic control with a goal of improving efficiency and safety, the TNNIS climb has been used more frequently by the FAA.
In her letter to Chao, Meng specifically asked for the federal government to release information about the National Annoyance Survey, as well as for more community participation in upcoming planning decisions that would involve use of the TNNIS climb.
The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, is titled “The Trade-Off between Optimizing Flight Patterns and Human Health: A Case Study of Aircraft Noise in Queens.” It found that the lifetime quality-of-life cost per person of using the TNNIS climb year round versus limited use in the summer to be around $11,288. Queens Community boards 7 (Flushing, College Point, Bay Terrace) and 11 (Bayside, Little Neck) were particularly hard hit by the increased noise.
The report concluded that “despite increases in efficiency, flight automation systems without a careful assessment of noise might generate flight paths over densely populated areas and cause serious health conditions.” The report said that increased risk of cardiovascular disease and anxiety disorders is often associated with the noise levels in the area. The noise can also disrupt sleep, causing a host of additional health issues.