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Increased Air Traffic, Frustrated Villagers

Some believe planes using the ILS approach bring less noise over Garden City.

Gina and Greg Fornasar's son, Ryan, has frequently been woken up by aircraft overhead over the last two years.  The Damianos, also of Garden City, have had similar trouble with their 1 year old.

"You feel like the roof is going to come off of your house, and you have no control over that. In the whole house, you have control over doors slamming, flushing toilets," Gina Fornasar said. "But with the air traffic, you have absolutely no control over it. And sometimes I don't think people can relate to how noisy it can actually be."

Peter Damiano and Fornasar have been working for much of the past year with Garden City's Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) to fight what they say is excessive aircraft noise in the village.

Ryan Fornasar was diagnosed autistic at 18 months old and has Sensory Processing Disorder, which makes it difficult for him to bear sounds like vacuums, hair dryers, and especially airplanes.

"We had to put him on medication for him to sleep … You cannot believe how hard it is to get an autistic child to sleep," Gina Fornasar said. "And when you're going through this for years, and you've got them to sleep, and all of a sudden there's a loud plane, I can't tell you how horrible that is to your family."

She says she has seen some improvement with the completion of major construction at JFK airport.

"To me, it's a real quality of life issue for the village. I know there are some residents that find it intolerable," Peter Damiano said. "But over time I think they've become accepting of it because they believe there's nothing they can do to combat a big governmental organization like the FAA."

While the idea of "excessive" noise may be subjective, there is no doubting the increased traffic at John F. Kennedy International Airport's runway 22L. Planes arriving and departing from 22L pass over Garden City and its neighboring communities.

According to charts from the FAA, traffic at 22L has increased since 2004, with a small decrease in 2006 and 2009. Overall, traffic has increased 40 percent at JFK since 2006, according to FAA spokesman Paul Laude.

In 2004, runway 22L handled 14.51 percent of traffic; 22.87 in 2005; 21.1 in 2006; 22.21 in 2007, 27.97 in 2008; 27.83 in 2009, and has reached a high of 39.52 so far in 2010.

The FAA says that traffic is usually dictated by wind factors, which cause one runway to be in use sometimes more than another. It is unlikely that the village will be seeing a decrease in the near future.

"[H]istorically… we do a forecast every year on what we see in the future, and we do anticipate an incremental growth in aviation operations," said Jim Peters, a representative from the FAA's press office. "Now, that of course, is always tempered with the economies of the industry. It's always dependent on that. I cannot say to you that operations at Kennedy airport will increase or decrease next year over this year. You just can't answer that kind of question."

Part of the increased traffic in 2009 was due to a four-month construction project on runway 13R-31L, the Bay Runway, to replace asphalt with concrete.

Residents, however, have noticed the problem getting worse for at least the past three years.

"I've been living in the village for 15 years," says Lawrence Quinn, who serves on Garden City's board of trustees and is chair of the EAB. "It's never been an occurrence that both days of the weekend are ruined by airplanes."

Both Quinn and Damiano say that much of the problem has to do with what landing procedures the FAA uses. The two common procedures are a VHL Omnidirectional Range (VOR) manual approach and a precision Instrument Landing System approach (ILS).

Both say that the ILS approach approaches the runway from a higher altitude, eliminating noise concerns. The FAA, however, disputes the claim that this approach is any less noisy and says its first concern is safety.

"The approaches are set up to ensure a safe landing," Peters said. "That's what we're concerned about."

Peters said the FAA does not keep track of what approaches planes use on a daily basis because both ways are safe and that is their primary concern.

As for whether the ILS approach does indeed make less noise than the VOR approach, Peters referred anyone interested to the Port Authority of New York.

"We're not going to voice an opinion as to whether one procedure is less noisy than another," he said. "It's immaterial to our mission to provide safe services to ensure a safe takeoff or landing at an airport, anywhere in the country."

A representative from the Port Authority's press office was not able to identify which procedure might be noisier, or what the specific differences between the two approaches are.

An FAA chart from November 2009 shows all flights arriving at runway 22L. Some flights appear to come out away from Garden City and take a straight approach, while many more take an angle directly over the village.

In addition, flights are supposed to be coming over Garden City at least 1,600 feet above ground in most cases, according to the FAA. However, a chart of mall flights over a point in Garden City in May and June 2010 shows 280 out of 9,695 flights below 1,600 feet.

Pilots are generally allowed to go below these altitudes when they feel that doing so is necessary for the safety of the passengers.

Both Quinn and Damiano said they have felt frustrated dealing with the FAA.

"They will answer your call, and they will speak to you, and they will do nothing about the issue," Quinn said.

"They've been evasive, frankly," Damiano added.

As for a solution, the three residents and the EAB would be happy if planes used the ILS approach, which they believe is less noisy for Garden City.

"If they followed that, I would be tickled pink," Quinn said.

Though that solution seems unlikely now, some relief may come in the form of a bill from Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-Mineola, who introduced the Noise Reduction Act of 2010 to Congress this month. The legislation would give residents a 30 percent tax credit for installing noise proofing technology in their homes.

"My fellow Long Islanders and I moved to Long Island to escape the loud noises and congestion common in big cities, and, yet, we still endure the hardships associated with airplane noise," McCarthy states in a press release.

The bill would help bring down the price of soundproofing windows, with the tax credit maxing out at $3,000. Quinn, however, said he does not think it is a solution because it still affects residents outside, in town and would be costly despite the tax credit.

Residents have stated at various meetings around the village how irritated they are with aircraft noise, but there is rarely any public attendance at EAB meetings. 

"People are busy and people don't see that they can actually have an effect. Then people say, 'It's the airplanes. There's not much you're going to be able to do,'" Quinn said.

But Quinn, Damiano and Fornasar believe that as they get more information and form a definitive plan, more residents will see that they can make a difference.

The EAB recommended to Garden City's board of trustees this month that they join the Town-Village Aircraft Safety & Noise Abatement Committee (TVASNAC), where nine other villages in the Town of Hempstead come together to discuss ways to fight aircraft noise.

"One reason [for the noise increase] might be we just didn't have a voice," Damiano said.

GCTransplant October 18, 2010 at 03:38 PM
Thanks to the Patch for publishing this. I have a few clarifications: 1. Air traffic over our Village has not only increased since 2004, it has increased to staggering levels. Do residents feel that 25,338 flights overhead in 2004 reflected a large burden? If so, then the 64,046 flights over our area in 2008 or 54,443 flights already through August of this year should be cause for alarm. So, while overall traffic at JFK was increasing about 25%, we as a community had to take on almost 140% of increases in volume (while other runways saw DECREASES). Does anyone really believe the FAA when they give wind as an excuse? There was no magical shift in wind direction from 2004 to the present which made winds come from the south 140% more often. 2. The FAA's own published procedures for the VOR approach show that aircraft must maintain an altitude of 2,000 feet or higher above Edgemere Park. The 1,600 feet that the FAA refers to is a red herring. That refers to the lowest possible cruising altitude that a plane can have intercepting its approach path. The minimum altitude for an aircraft "on approach" above Garden City should be over 2,000 feet. In May and June of this year, an amazing 7,500 planes out of 9,600 flew below that level. Some were as low as 1,100 feet. That is why our fellow neighbors, from the High School all the way to St. Anne's, can hear the engine roars so clearly. Until we as a community stand up for our quality of life, this will continue.
John October 28, 2010 at 11:40 PM
Everyone in GC is frustrated and angry by the increase in airplane noise. I beleive the only way we can get the FAA to listen is if we get the local politicians to take up this cause up for us. They need to understand that this is a huge issue and that we will not alllow it to be buried. Can we start a petition that can be presented to them? Rally? The support is there but it needs leadership.
Dave March 06, 2011 at 02:47 AM
The traffic into this 22L has climbed tremendously since 2007, the planes in Massapequa where I am are so low , we can clearly see the logos. The planes pass directly over us then head over garden city, I have had planes as low as 2000 feet over me, and that is just unacceptable. We need to stand up to the FAA, and get this noise, air and quality of life pollution stopped. They really need to see that this approach is destroying Nassau, and that their other runways should be utilized. We have had this approach used for over 30 straight hours in the winter, and in the summer months it can go on and on for days. Cant even keep a window open as the noise this generates is horrible over the communities. This is a huge safety factor also in all the neighborhoods these planes fly so low over..Wind excuse from the FAA...., not buying that one anymore!! Let's keep the fight up.


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