Already aggravated residents in Garden City and its surrounding communities were even more peeved when they learned Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Port Authority officials were a no-show at Monday night's packed Town-Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee (TVASNAC) meeting in Garden City.
Kendall Lampkin, TVASNAC executive director, said officials from the FAA, Port Authority and the NextGEN division in Washington, D.C. all declined the invitation.
"Last time I checked the FAA is a federal agency. Their employees are paid with our tax dollars. And the fact that they're not here is outrageous," said Ray Gaudio, a TVASNAC member who represents East Williston, to rousing applause.
Laurence Quinn, Garden City village trustee and fellow TVASNAC member, told Patch the committee learned that FAA officials weren't attending on Thursday and Friday. "They were coming as of two weeks ago ... Between Thursday and Friday we got this bevy of emails saying 'we can't show.' So it wasn't that something came up. They decided they weren't going to show up."
In a prepared statement, FAA officials said, "The FAA and the Port Authority will continue to work together and coordinate with community groups, such as TVASNAC, to address issues and concerns for communities that are impacted by aircraft and airport noise. We have a long working relationship with TVASNAC, and the FAA has regularly attended its monthly meetings. We expect to do so in the future when we have adequate time to prepare materials in response to meeting agendas and to make sure that the right FAA personnel are available to attend the meeting."
Still, approximately 150 people did show up, from as far away as Rockaway, Queens, to hear what FAA officials had to say about the recent surge in aircraft coming in and out of JFK airport and what the administration was doing to improve what residents' describe as their diminishing quality of life.
Larry Hoppenhauer, TVASNAC's newest member, represents Malverne. He addressed the Thursday night incident in which black oily sludge allegedly fell from a plane onto a couple enjoying the unseasonably warm weather in their yard. "The FAA said they are going to investigate but they don't work weekends and said they'd come Monday ... I don't know honestly where that's at. I can't get any information," he said. "After three days we're presuming the 'sludge' was harmless but it could've been something worse and we have a right to know what's falling from the sky."
Irene Villacci, representing Sen. Dean Skelos, also addressed the incident. "To have this sludge fall from the sky was a sign of destruction of our quality of life," she said. "As of an hour ago the most that our office was told by the FAA was that they had not concluded the investigation yet and they were not releasing any information yet about the plane or the airline..."
Mary-Grace Tomecki, a TVASNAC member who represents neighboring Floral Park, says residents in her village live under the arrival flight path of runways 22L 22R specifically what is known as the Instrument Landing Approach or the ILS approach. "Floral Park on any given day, or more specifically if winds are out of the south, would expect to experience approximately 60 to 80 planes flying over the community in a parallel runway approach. It affects approximately 70 to 80 percent of the homes in Floral Park."
Tomecki notes these same planes are flying directly over East Hills, New Hyde Park and a section of Mineola. "We want an equitable distribution of air traffic," she said. "We want more frequent rotation of runways."
Quinn said Garden Cityites live under runway 22R, which brings even more planes over the village. "In 2004 we got 14, 15 percent of all volume and we weren't complaining. If you look now we're getting 32 percent of all volume. That's two-and-a-half times more volume. There's an issue. Secondly, there used to be an approved altitude. You should be coming over my house at 2,500 feet ... Mary-Grace Tomecki is fortunate enough that in her community she has a Port Authority air monitor. Last month's data said it was an average 61 decibels. The runway that affects us, the other 22, the VOR approach, which comes over my community, we're getting more planes than over Floral Park at the same altitude but they don't have a monitor here so you figure out the math. They've got 61 decibels with fewer planes. We got more planes, same altitude. Both altitudes [are] way too low. That doesn't sound safe to me."
Quinn, who grew up in New Hyde Park, said for 50 years he's lived within two miles of where he resides right now. "They're lower and they're louder," he said. "On a nice day in July, August, September when I want to have my barbecue outside and the planes are coming over every one minute, 40 seconds, which is the average, at about 60 decibels, I can't enjoy myself," Quinn continued. "They used to at least rotate the runways every four hours. I can deal with four hours of nonsense. But now they're doing it 17, 18, 19 hours. So once they start coming over my house I know the rest of my day is ruined."
The FAA reauthorization bill, which passed Congress, provides funding for the NextGEN procedure. Shams Tarek, communications director for McCarthy, said the congresswoman voted against the bill because of its lack of a requirement of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
"As far as she was concerned, the lack of requirement for an Environmental Impact Study was enough for her to say no," he said. "Unfortunately it's a very local issue to us but there are 435 members of Congress voting and as you know the bill passed."
Tarek said McCarthy continues to work with her Senate colleagues and talk to FAA officials and community members. "Hopefully there can be enough public response. Moving forward there may be another opportunity to get some kind of an EIS," he said. "It's not required of course but that doesn't mean it can't happen."
Lampkin said this kind of advocacy is critical. "The Port Authority runs Kennedy airport, but it also runs LaGuardia, Newark and Teterboro. Because of that it's one of the few airport sponsors that do not have to do what's called a Part 150 study. A Part 150 study is a study that makes an airport take a look at every possible opportunity to mitigate noise. If they can't they have to say why. The Port Authority was grandfathered into not having to do this and because of that this lack of an EIS ... is critically important."
Lampkin added, "Quality of life is so important."
For more information on this issue, visit www.quietskies.net and/or www.quietovergc.com. Email the FAA noise complaint mailbox at email@example.com. The public comment period on NextGEN ends March 7. To sign a petition calling for environmental studies be done on NextGEN, click here.