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Jet noise, and quality of life in Nassau County

Legislators urge study on impact of air traffic

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State Sen. Jim Gaughran and Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, whose district encompasses Malverne, proposed a bill last week that would study the environmental and human health impacts of John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport. The proposed legislation would require the state Departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation to examine and report on the effects of air traffic at the two airports.

“The noise is excessive, harmful to humans and needs to be mitigated,” Griffin said at a Nassau County Aviation Committee news conference on May 17. “Although we will always endure a level of airplane noise, I am hopeful that this study will illustrate that many residents are faced with excessive noise way above the acceptable level.”

Malvernite Elaine Miller, one of the co-founders of the aviation committee, which was formed in March, said that its main goal is to improve Nassau County residents’ quality of life. “That will have to be done through numerous ways, but especially legislation,” Miller said. “The effects of plane noise have been brought to the forefront, and it seems that since the formation of this group, the ball has really been rolling.”

Assemblyman Ed Ra said that in 2012, he helped pass legislation to facilitate what is known as a Part 150 study, which is examining the impact of plane noise in areas under the flight paths at Kennedy and LaGuardia. The study, he said, has led to roundtable meetings at which elected officials, community leaders and business people met with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to address concerns at those airports. Nassau County, Ra said, has been under-represented at those meetings.

“We need a true voice when it comes to aviation issues,” he said. “We need balance. We need an opportunity for our communities to enjoy their properties.”

In addition to the Part 150 study, NextGen, a satellite GPS technology, was also implemented in 2012. It has saved $1.6 billion by reducing jets’ time in the air and their fuel use, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Miller said, however, that it has not helped mitigate jet noise. “Since the implementation of NextGen, citizens across the county have been exposed to an intrusive assault on their lives,” she said, “due to the continual use of constricted airspace.”

The recent rise in jet noise is partly attributable to an increase in arrivals and departures — 35 to 70 percent more because of the Port Authority’s runway project at Kennedy, which began on April 1. County Legislator Howard Kopel, a Lawrence resident who represents the Five Towns, said that while he understands that living near an airport means jet noise, more should be done to address the problem.

“I can practically reach up and shake hands with some of the pilots,” Kopel said. “I know that we can’t move the airports, but there has to be a way that we can divert some of the traffic.”

Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages said that on top of the noise, she believes that jet emissions, too, are having a negative impact on the communities she serves. “In Elmont and Valley Stream, the asthma rates are through the roof, and so we need to ensure that our communities are well represented, which is why we’re pushing back,” Solages said. “People are now more cognizant about environment and how it affects your health, so we’re looking for environmental justice for our community, and we have people who want to enjoy a great quality of life.”

Jana Goldenberg, a co-founder of the Nassau County Aviation Committee, said that getting local elected officials behind the proposed legislation was a win for the group, and that the next step would be its passage in the Senate and Assembly.

“We don’t let grass grow under our feet,” Goldenberg said. “We’re going to work until we can live in peace and quiet and know that we’re not being killed by the toxic fumes flying over us.”