Turning Down The Noise Overhead

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Aircraft noise has long been an issue for Stewart Manor residents. At the most recent village board of trustees meeting, Cristina O’Keefe presented an update on the ongoing fight against airplane noise pollution. O’Keefe represents the village on the Town-Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee (TVASNAC). It was established in 1966 by various communities in the Town of Hempstead to meet and discuss the blight of overhead aircraft noise.

Progress is being made incrementally at best, according to O’Keefe. More than a year ago, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the Port Authority to conduct an environmental impact study to determine the impact of the airplane noise, though the study itself is barely underway and might not be completed for three to four years. The creation of a roundtable committee that would handle complaints and make regulations relating to the local airports is also on the agenda, although the various factions meeting to formulate the round table are having a difficult time agreeing on how to proceed.

“It’s a hodgepodge of people interested in the formation,” O’Keefe said of the groups that meet semi-regularly at York College in Jamaica, Queens to discuss the noise. The FAA and Port Authority are present as well as various community groups like TVASNAC. A recent November meeting was the first after a three-month hiatus during which very little has changed.

In recent years, though technological advances have made plane engines a little quieter, the frequency of flights coming in and out of the nearby airports in Queens has increased. Residents report being disturbed by planes flying overhead at regular intervals.   

According to O’Keefe, the Port Authority seems unwilling to step up and take leadership at the meetings, and as a result two competing plans have sprung up. Northern Queens and Nassau County support the creation of one roundtable that would oversee both airports. These groups argue that since the airports are located so close to each other and their airspace is so interrelated that it would be most efficient to govern them together.

The South Queens plan is to create two different roundtables, since other major airports around the country each have their own committees. O’Keefe called this notion “silly.”

“It would require so much time and so much cross communication,” O’Keefe said of the South Queens plan.

The York College meetings lack any formal governing body, but where community groups like TVASNAC are struggling to make themselves heard, elected officials may have more clout. Community boards from Queens send more representatives than organizations from Nassau County like TVASNAC. O’Keefe says many of the local Queens officials and council members are attending these meetings, while very few Long Island politicians turn up.

“I think we need help from high authorities,” Stewart Manor Mayor Gerard Tangredi said. The issue is further complicated by the fact that as of now all of the Town of Hempstead is expected to be granted only one seat on the roundtable, whenever it is formed. TVASNAC will be publishing a formal letter requesting that each member of its organization be granted their own seat, since they each represent a different community.

“We either have to move Stewart Manor or move the airport,” joked trustee John Egan.

TVASNAC is also pushing to have more noise monitors installed in the county. Some have been installed in Queens, but O’Keefe is working on getting Stewart Manor its own.

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