Aviation consultant provides potential solutions for aircraft noise issues
On Monday, August 27, the Village of Stewart Manor hosted a meeting of the Town-Village Aircraft Safety & Noise Abatement Committee (TVASNAC) at the Stewart Manor Country Club. While this Town of Hempstead-sponsored group regularly meets in the village of Lawrence, the site location was switched to Stewart Manor for the first time ever. A turnout of between 50 and 60 residents from different communities ranging from Floral Park and Hempstead to Ozone Park and Garden City attended. The evening’s topic centered on the benefits of conducting a Part150 study, a voluntary program that U.S. airports may undertake to seek a balance between their operational needs and the noise impact their operations have on surrounding neighborhoods. Manhasset aviation consultant Henry A.F. Young of Young Environmental Sciences, Inc. was the speaker invited to provide professional insight on the complexities of Part150 and to answer questions from the board and audience.
After having a last-minute cancellation on her schedule, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY04) made an appearance. She came to update the attendees on the latest efforts to have the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Port Authority (PA) address the long-standing aircraft noise issues that have been plaguing Nassau County and Queens. McCarthy’s latest missive was a letter sent on Aug. 2 to FAA acting administrator Michael Huerta and PA Executive Director Patrick Foye, attempting to get both agencies to sit down and work together. In addition, the next item on her agenda is arranging a meeting between TVASNAC and United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
“First I made an appointment with Ray LaHood to have a conversation with him, which we did,” McCarthy explained. “[The FAA] has agreed to have some of the members of the board down to Washington to have a face-to-face meeting with Ray LaHood to work these things out. So at least we can get everyone on the same page. Different organizations in Washington don’t talk to each other and it’s been a problem on every level through every administration going back to when I started serving under President Clinton.”
A common refrain among many residents and TVASNAC members was the perception of being ignored by state and federal officials regarding their complaints. There was also widespread agreement that the volume and frequency had increased exponentially over the past few years. Garden City TVVASNAC representative Laurence Quinn reinforced these complaints while addressing McCarthy.
“I have a very simple frustration with the FAA that we’ve been using for quite some time. Planes flying in the past couple of years have been significantly lower. They used to follow certain altitude restrictions—2,000 or 2,500 feet over the areas in this community. They are now beginning to do what is called low-altitude visual approaches and we’ve been told that as long as they’re above 600 feet, we don’t care,” he said with exasperation. “We’re [now] getting altitude levels that are significantly lower. In the interim, if we could go back to a published approach with the published altitudes, I’d be so much happier.”
Featured speaker Henry A.F. Young, an aviation consultant, used his 38 years of specializing in compatible land use planning as a guide toward explaining ways of grappling with the complexities of these noise issues. His solutions included lowering the onset point of serious discomfort and incompatibility from its current level of 65 DNL (Daily Noise Level), addressing night period noise as a separate matter and “training a cadre of capable, experienced, disciplined contractors under the supervision of acoustical experts to address this problem in the cheapest and most cost-effective manner that can be done.”
Young also acknowledged the expense behind doing all these things, but said funding could be drummed up via trust fund monies available through a Part150 Study that go toward addressing the concerns of the most seriously impacted residents. He also said that passenger facility charges, which are roughly $4.50 per person departing from a New York airport, could raise another estimated five to ten million dollars a year. One of the most crucial points he raised was the fact that the City of New York had revised its noise code in 2007, with one line calling for the city to address rail and aircraft transportation noise. Young went on to say that in 2010, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) formally requested that the Port Authority have a Part150 study done, a fact that was not revealed until the DEP posted the document on its website a few weeks ago. The aviation consultant’s conclusion was the need to make necessary alliances that might also make for strange bedfellows.
“I know anytime I mention the City of New York in the context of Nassau County and the experiences have not been universally positive, but there’s no choice,” Young acknowledged. “We have to join forces with the city administration, the public interest groups that exist around the airport until it behooves all the participants to realize that nothing is going to go away. And the very worthwhile safety valve that this committee represents, mobilizes into an effective force for change.”
The evening’s final speaker was Frank Scaturro, the Conservative Party nominee for Congress in New York’s 4th Congressional District who is running against Rep. McCarthy in this year’s election. While criticizing what he said are his opponent’s lack of specific proposals in her comments along with planes not sticking to higher altitudes and descent angles outlined in their charts and the condition of the concrete at JFK Airport’s Bay Runway, Scaturro also pointed out the absence of some key figures.
“I’d also like to ask…why is it that the FAA and Port Authority are not here?” he queried. “If those agencies won’t show up at public meetings like this, it doesn’t say much for their cooperation with oversight, and we need congressional oversight very badly. I do not believe we are getting it.”
The next regular meeting of the TVASNAC committee members will be held on Monday, September 24 with the location yet to be determined.