Sounding off on airplane noise

Resident concerns change JFK runway plans


Woodsburgh resident Bob Seide, a Town-Village Safety & Noise Abatement Committee (TVASNAC) member, said he doesn’t think the amount of noise generated from air planes flying overhead on their way to John F. Kennedy Airport will change after the comment period regarding a revised Port Authority plan, which includes the expansion of a runway, ends.

“Several years ago the control tower at JFK was supposed to rotate the runways to spread out the noise when there were no strong winds and they did to a certain extent but some pilots prefer certain runways because it’s more convenient for their terminal and uses less fuel coming in and leaving the terminal,” he said. “I don’t think there will be any real change now.”

The Port Authority’s original plans for the threshold– the point at which a plane touches down– of Runway 4L/22R were that it be moved north by 3,316 feet, and would have required the cutting down of 800 trees in Idlewild Park, in Queens. Atlantic Beach TVASNAC member Carl Baessler said trees are vital for noise abatement. “They serve as a noise buffer, especially during the summer months,” he said.

Resident concerns propelled the Port Authority to revise the plan so it does not involve the expansion of the threshold or the removal of any trees, but the proposed expansion of the runway’s length by 728 feet and its width by 50 feet remains. To the north of the airport, which has a total of four runways running parallel, there would also be no change in the altitude of planes arriving on Runway 22R or departures from Runway 4L. The runway would also use concrete pavement instead of asphalt. Concrete is expected to last between 30 to 40 years. Asphalt’s life expectancy is 12 years.

“I don’t think the additional [runway] length will make much of a difference because there will still be a lot of [aircraft] traffic,” Baessler said. “Once the runway expansion is finished there will be a lot more noise and the community’s that will be affected are going to be very upset and I don’t blame them.”

Brian Simon, the Port Authority’s director of governmental and community relations, said that the expansion of the 4L/R22 would meet federal requirements for runway safety and serve as a better alternative than the original plan in helping to minimize airplane noise in surrounding towns. “We didn’t want a community up in arms and we had to make sure we comply with the Runway Safety Area standards in keeping that area safe,” Simon said, “because we bear a responsibility not only to make sure those flying to and from Kennedy Airport are safe, but those who live around the airport are equally safe.”

Seide said planes leaving JFK predominantly affect Inwood, while arriving planes impacts other portions of the Five Towns. “Planes fly much lower around here than in places like Floral Park or Garden City,” he said. “Whatever increases aircraft safety is the most important thing.”

Having lived in the Five Towns for more than 20 years, Seide said he’s used to the noise. “I tolerate it,” he said. “I like it here and I’m not bothered by the noise. When I sit outside with my neighbors and planes fly over we can’t talk for about 25 seconds but that’s about it.”

Baessler, who has been serving on the TVASNAC board for 22 years, said a lot has been done to alleviate airplane noise, but little of it has to do with the organization. “The biggest contributor to noise abatement has been the innovation in the design of the airplane,” he said. “They climb higher, have quieter engines and create less noise than they did 20 or 30 years ago.”

Simon said that, while the Port Authority would do its best to address quality of life issues such as aircraft noise, the Federal Aviation Administration, an agency of the Department of Transportation, would also need to be consulted. He said that the Port Authority is an airport operator and that the runways used are determined by the FAA but that the Authority is sensitive to noise issues. He encouraged residents to voice their concerns during the environmental assessment comment period ending Nov. 18.

Comments may be submitted with the subject heading, “JFK RWY 4L-22R. EA COMMENT” or by mail to Port Authority of N.Y. & N.J., 225 Park Ave. South, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10003.

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