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State reps. propose legislation to combat jet noise on Long Island

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State Sen. Jim Gaughran and Assemblywoman Judy Griffin 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.”

Gaughran, a Democrat from Northport, recalled knocking on doors during his campaign for senate. He said in some cases he couldn’t finish a conversation with a constituent due to the noise from low-flying planes overhead. “There are direct flight paths that go over the northern part of [the Town of] Oyster Bay,” he said referring to the cluster of incorporated villages there. “In those communities you feel like you can reach up and touch some of these planes. It’s a distraction.”

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.

The bill would require the DEC and the DOT to study plane noise levels from JFK and LaGuardia between 2020 and 2021 and report its findings to the state the following year. The study would also identify holding patterns and air traffic trends that may produce unprecedented noise levels and offer alternatives to the federal government to curve the problem, Gaughran said.

“We’re going to confront the federal government to fix this issue that, we see, is obvious, and create guidance to try and make some changes so these communities that are unfairly inundated with all this air traffic can get some relief,” he said.

Malvernite Elaine Miller, one of the co-founders of the aviation committee, which 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 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. But Nassau County has been under-represented at those meetings, Ra said.

An aide from Gaughran’s office said the Part 150 study does not include most of Long Island since many of the plane noise monitors that measure sound intensity there have reported average sound levels below the Federal Aviation Administration’s definition of significant noise (approximately 65 decibels).

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 FAA. 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.”

Jana Goldenberg, another 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.”