On airplane noise, we’re back to the drawing board


My friend and I speak on the phone several times a week. But he has a pretty hectic work and home life, so he tends to call me when he’s out walking his dog. Besides calls at odd hours and his being hard of hearing — he refuses to get a hearing aid — we’ve noted that our conversations have growing more tedious lately because of airplane noise.

Unfortunately, it seems there are frequent breaks in our chats to allow for low-flying planes that are roaring above. While I recall this happening from time to time in the past, lately it seems nearly impossible to have a complete discussion, so we typically just agree to talk later. Clearly, this is not a data-driven observation, just my own anecdotal experience, but I also hear from dozens of constituents a week who have similar complaints.

We live near two of the nation’s busiest airports, so this is nothing new to anyone reading this. I’ve dealt with this issue for more than 20 years, first as mayor of Mineola, attending Town-Village Aircraft Safety & Noise Abatement Committee meetings, and in subsequent years as a state senator. There has been no other single issue that has been a more persistent nuisance in our communities. I’ve written more letters to the Federal Aviation Administration, met with more Port Authority officials, held more public hearings and demanded more studies than I can even remember. I even sponsored legislation in Albany, and yet here we are. The noise remains, and in fact seems to be getting worse.

At the heart of the matter is an imbalanced distribution of air traffic, with a disproportionate number of landing flight paths directly over our neighborhoods. To maintain these approaches, pilots are forced to fly at lower altitudes and increase engine thrust, consequently amplifying the noise of their aircraft. This makes an indisputably negative impact on the well-being and health of our communities.

Knowing this, you would think improvements could be made easily enough, but changes are subject to a complex web of relationships among the FAA, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and numerous airlines. So the key to getting anything done will be obtaining an objective analysis of the impact of the noise at ground level.

To that end, the State Legislature passed a law requiring the Department of Health to conduct such a study and report it by March 31. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, no such study was presented, and when we pressed for it, we were told that the department was still working on it. Of course, I’ll be staying on this and reporting any progress back to you.

I know that summer is approaching, and many of us hope to spend more time outdoors. To keep the pressure on, I recently hosted another airplane noise work session, this time with Michael Koblenz, the mayor of East Hills. He might be the only Long Island elected official who gets more noise complaints than I do, and yet he hasn’t given up the fight. While the meeting was open to all, we were encouraged to see nearly 40 public officials there who agreed that urgent action was needed.

But I won’t sugarcoat it. At times I feel like an exasperated Wile E. Coyote, going back to his drawing board to hatch another plan to capture the Road Runner. But like Wile E., I don’t give up easily. So stay tuned. We have more sessions in the works, with new ideas and new neighbors who are ready to lead the charge.

Jack Martins represents the 7th Senate District.