How loud are those planes, anyway?

WebTrak measures JFK aircraft noise in the Five Towns


Aircraft noise from John F. Kennedy International Airport has been an issue for Five Towns residents for years. WebTrak, an online method the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has developed for measuring and reporting sound levels, has been available to the public since March. Residents can see noise levels recorded in real time on the website.
WebTrak, which is accessible from the Port Authority’s website, displays the decibel levels of the flights overhead. A total of 11 noise monitors in the airport’s vicinity are connected to the WebTrak page, where levels are recorded.
Inwood resident Patty Vacchio has lived in her home for 30 years, during which she has grown accustomed to the noise. “When we hear the planes, the noise is quite loud and the planes do fly quite low,” she said. “At times my husband feels if he stands on the roof, he’s almost close enough to touch them.”
The WebTrak system was developed as part of a noise study mandated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which includes JFK as well as LaGuardia and Newark-Liberty airports. The study is expected to run for three years and cost nearly $3 million. Other noise-focused research has been done in the past, but WebTrak is the most detailed and publicly accessible study to date.
It records noise levels, in decibels, at various locations in and around the Five Towns, including one near the Inwood Country Club, and computes daily averages, known as Day-Night Levels. A DNL threshold of 65 decibels, established by the Federal Aviation Administration, is considered a comfortable limit for plane noise in residential areas.
But Kendall Lampkin, executive director of the Town and Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee, said he thinks that new guidelines need to be established for measuring noise. The committee, formed in 1966 to work on reducing aircraft noise and to monitor environmental concerns created by the airports, has representatives from Atlantic Beach, Cedarhurst, Hewlett Neck, Inwood, Lawrence, Malverne, Valley Stream, Woodsburgh and other communities.
“If we lower the DNL down from 65, we include a wider area of exposure to noise,” Lampkin explained. “In the Port Authority’s study we are going to determine that the DNL be 60.” With a lower DNL and with a wider exposure area, noise from more areas would be accounted for in the study, and more could be done, like soundproofing school walls and creating quieter aircraft, to abate it.
In the meantime, some residents have been wondering whether the noise monitor at the entrance of the Inwood Country Club, on Peppe Road, is working. It was thought to have been damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and a resident and Noise Abatement Committee member raised the issue at a discussion of the planned noise study during a committee meeting last month. But the monitor has been working, the Port Authority confirmed on June 13.
“I’m told that the Inwood Country Club site monitor has been working and continues to work,” Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico said. “There is one a bit further north, on Broad Street in Jamaica [Queens] that has been out, and we are working to replace that one.”
The Inwood monitor’s measurements can be seen on the WebTrak display, Marsico said. Noise in the Five Towns is also monitored in Cedarhurst and Atlantic Beach, he said.
Vacchio said that in her neighborhood, aircraft noise is bad. “Due to my heavy work schedule, it’s difficult to pin down times and days, or when the noise levels are better or worse,” she said. “Obviously, with the nicer weather and being outdoors, or having the windows open, we’re far more aware of it.”
More information on the study can be found at To view aircraft noise levels form Kennedy Airport, go to

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