Nassau County Aviation Committee takes flight

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The sound of an airplane roaring over homes is familiar to residents of Malverne and other western Nassau County communities. Members of the advocacy group Plane Sense 4 Long Island hope to reduce such noise, and want state lawmakers to work with them. Seventeen elected officials have joined the three-month-old Nassau County Aviation Committee, which held its first public forum at Nassau Community College on April 30.

“The quality of our lives has been severely disrupted,” said Malvernite Elaine Miller, a committee co-founder. “The noise is unbearable and our sleep is disrupted. We can no longer enjoy our homes. We often say they’re too loud, too low and too frequent.”

Larry Hoppenhauer, a Malverne resident who is the executive director of the Town-Village Aircraft Safety & Noise Abatement Committee, told the Herald that part of the reason for the rise in jet noise is the increased number of arrivals and departures ­— 35 to 70 percent more because of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s runway project at John F. Kennedy International Airport, which began on April 1.

Miller, who has spent several years raising awareness about jet noise in Nassau County through Plane Sense, said that jet noise has long been around, but not to this extent. “Nassau County does not get a break,” Miller said. “That’s why all of these residents are here.”

Hoppenhauer also said that the Federal Aviation Administration should be more transparent when addressing jet noise. “They’re missing out on great opportunities to reach out to the community, and to explain their situation, and getting input from the community on what they would like to see,” Hoppenhauer said.

Conner Dunleavy, a representative of State Assemblyman Ed Ra, said that both Democrats and Republicans agree that jet noise is an issue. “This is a grave quality-of-life concern that affects each and every person in this room,” Dunleavy said at the forum. “I’m so glad that this board has come together to get this done.”

Tom Curry, a representative of U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, who is also a member of the New York Community Aviation Roundtable, said that the organization wants to boost membership of Nassau residents. He said that NYCAR is preparing a letter to send to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to take executive action to amend NYCAR’s bylaws to allow more members from Nassau on the board. Currently, Hoppenhauer and Miller are the only representatives from the county.

“That’s only the first step in getting what Nassau County needs from the FAA and the Port Authority,” Curry said. “Nassau County representation matters on this issue. That’s something that we’re fighting so we can get Nassau County’s concerns heard on that board and we’ll continue to do that.”

Gerard Gordon, a lifelong Lynbrook resident, said that when he was growing up, planes did not fly over his community as frequently as they do today. Because of the jet noise, Gordon said, he struggles to sleep through the night, and that he wakes up at 2 and 4 a.m. almost daily. “That’s life in Lynbrook right now,” Gordon told the panel. “It sucks. If you think we’re going to go away, we’re not.”

While many residents shared similar complaints with the panel, Miller said that cooperation between residents and elected officials is needed to develop a solution.

“These are baby steps that we’re going to be taking in the beginning,” Miller said. “Our legislators have the ability to make changes through legislation, and that is going to be our ultimate goal. It’s through legislation because, honestly, it’s not going to work any other way.”

Have an opinion on plane noise in Nassau County? Send your letter to the editor at ngrant@liherald.com.