BY TRONE DOWD
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) is drawing the line when it comes to the noisy air traffic that has long disturbed the airport-bordering neighborhoods of Queens with the introduction of new legislation last Friday.
The new legislation, which Meng is calling the Quiet Communities Act of 2015, will hand the responsibility of controlling and limiting noise pollution in neighborhoods like Jackson Heights and Springfield Gardens to the Environmental Protection Agency. Previously, that responsibility belonged to the Federal Aviation Agency. However, according to Meng, the FAA produced little to no results.
“The FAA has failed the residents of Queens,” Meng said. “It continues to ignore the borough by making no real attempt to decrease the excessive aircraft noise over the area. I believe that the Environmental Protection Agency is better suited to handle the problem, and this bill is the best way for the agency to take control of it. Noise is an environmental issue and the EPA has handled mitigation efforts in the past.”
Meng attended a Community Board 11 meeting on Monday to explain this proposed legislation, among others.
The FAA’s involvement in managing airplane noise began more than 30 years ago. Before then, the EPA took on the responsibility until their Noise Abatement and Control office funding was cut by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Now, for the first time in three decades, Meng is making an effort “to give the EPA a try.”
If the legislation was passed, the EPA would have to conduct studies of airport noise as soon as possible. The EPA would also have to review the FAA’s previous procedures and study results making sure that they are up to the EPA’s new standards.
While noise issues have been a problem for some time now, when the FAA introduced new flight patterns for planes exiting and entering both LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports in 2012, there was a boost in the amount of noise made by air traffic.
The piece of legislation comes right on the heels of several developments pertaining to New York’s City’s two airports. In August, Vice President Joe Biden, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Chair of the governor’s Airport Master Plan Advisory Panel Dan Tishman said that LaGuardia would be getting $4 billion worth of improvements, including a single unified terminal expanded transportation access and will provide a total of 18,000 jobs across the board. Just this month, JFK Airport runway repairs saw completion after nearly a year of construction. Next year, a new hotel is slated to begin construction near the historic Eero Saarinen TWA terminal next to JetBlue’s Terminal 5.
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) told the Queens Tribune that he was very much behind the switch proposed by Meng.
“We can’t wait another year, we can’t another day,” Richards said. “Our children have to deal with this in particular. You can’t even enjoy a concert in the park without airplanes flying over your head every minute.”
Richards specifically referred to Brookville Park which suffers severely from noisy, low flying planes, often huge 747’s, overhead.
“If this will push the envelope in ensuring that we get justice, then we definitely support this,” he said.
But while he was interested to see the results, Richards pointed out that it was important that air pollution not get lost in the shuffle as the EPA moves to alleviate the noise problem in the affiliated neighborhoods.
The EPA told the Queens Tribune that they are not yet ready to officially comment on the piece of legislation.
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly.