BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
More voices are joining in a growing shout against airplane noise.
Protestors came to Cunningham Park Sunday afternoon to speak out against low flying and noisy planes from LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports. The rally was hosted by advocacy group Queens Quiet Skies.
While veterans of the fight against aviation noise represented a large portion of the rally’s participants, several were getting involved for the first time.
Dennis and Loretta Occhino said they found out about the rally through a recent parish function.
“We’re here to support the rally because we agree. We complain every day how we can’t even hear each other talk over dinner,” Loretta Occhino said.
For the Occhinos, airplane noise also presents a danger to their children’s learning. Their five-year-old son entered school in North Flushing soon after the FAA instated a new flying procedure that increased the traffic over Northeast Queens.
“We feel that it’s a distraction to their learning each and every day,” Dennis Occhino said. “Some kids have a hard enough time concentrating at school, and to have something like that as a distraction makes it a lot worse.”
Bayside resident and GrowNYC board member Dr. Arline Bronzaft took the stage to speak about her decades of experience studying the effects of noise on children’s learning. She cited in particular her research indicating that learning improved after noise abatement.
“The research is overwhelming that noise is not just annoying,” Bronzaft added.
Ero Hatzidimitriv came to the rally with her daughters, who attend 6th and 8th grade in Bayside. Her daughters held a sign reading, “I can’t hear my teacher.”
Other rhetoric at the rally largely touched on topics Queens Quiet Skies has been pushing for months. Namely, protestors and elected officials said they want the Federal Aviation Administration to lower the bracket of what it considers acceptable noise levels. Other areas of concern include the structure of aviation community roundtables and pollution from jet noise.
A large number of elected officials spoke at the rally, including Borough President Melinda Katz, U.S. Rep Grace Meng (D-Flushing), U.S. Rep Steve Israel (D-Melville), State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing).
Earlier this month, Meng and Israel, alongside more than 20 other members of Congress, penned a letter to the FAA urging them to update noise level metrics.
“We were happy with the turnout at the rally,” said Janet McEneaney, president of Queens Quiet Skies. “Almost every day, I get emails from new people wanting to know how they can join Queens Quiet Skies. The FAA has been doing an excellent job at recruiting for us in the past few months.”
“I foresee an even greater movement to hold Congress, the FAA and the airport operating authorities accountable for the damage to our health and quality of life,” McEneaney added.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.