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EAB Requests New Laws to Stop Low-Flying Aircraft

The Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) continued its discussions regarding the low-flying aircraft over the Village of Garden City and the incessant noise that accompanies it. EAB members and village residents told a representative from Congresswoman McCarthy’s office that new legislation is needed to decrease the amount of aircraft flying over the Village of Garden City, as well as harsher penalties for planes that fly below FAA altitude regulations.

The meeting began with Village Trustee Lawrence Quinn announcing that Bay Runway at John Kennedy International Airport (JFK) has reopened after four months of construction and repair work.  EAB Board Member and Garden City resident Peter Damiano said he wasn’t convinced that the opening of the Bay Runway would help alleviate the increasing volume of flights over Garden City. Damiano quoted data given to the board at a recent meeting with the FAA, stating that between 2006 and 2008, 20,000 more planes flew over Western Nassau County to JFK. “It went from 42,000 to 64,000 planes over our area — that’s just staggering to me,” Damiano said.

EAB Board Member Gina Fornasar, who has been initiating communications with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for many months, tracked a flight in May of 2010 over Garden City that she says dipped below 1,700 feet. According to Fornasar, this flight dipped below the FAA’s altitude regulation of approximately 2,300 feet. Fornasar also stated that she submitted a formal noise complaint letter to Peter Laude, a spokesperson for the FAA. The letter explained that on June 19, an aircraft flew over her house in Garden City at 4:22 a.m. “A plane was flying so low that the dramatic noise awoke my entire family,” she wrote in an email to the FAA. She went on to explain that after that three other flights following were approximately 30 to 60 seconds apart. Fornasar  has also documented many pictures of flights coming in with their landing gear down too early in the arrival process. “The FAA and pilots themselves should be held more accountable for taking these shallow angles of descent. Unfortunately they are not,” she wrote.

Damiano, who has also been severely impacted by the noise levels over his home, prepared a report about the history, altitude and flight paths in Garden City and submitted the information to Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy’s office. “It’s time to get some real answers from the FAA or take stronger action,” he said at the board meeting. “I honestly believe our legislators don’t fully understand the problem, which is shocking because some of these legislators have been there decades,” he added.

Trustee Lawrence Quinn explained that the current penalty for planes that dip below 2,300 feet is $250. One resident, who complained his house was in the line of fire, suggested that increasing the fines could be a win-win solution to the problem. He believed the harsher penalties would not only provide additional revenue to the FAA, but they would deter airliners from flying below their altitude regulations. “You don’t have sanctions with teeth,” the resident said. “If the sanction was $50,000 a violation, you would end the problem tomorrow,” he stated, adding that the board can achieve this through “political will.”

The representative from McCarthy’s office, who sat in for a portion of the EAB meeting, told the audience that she would report the board’s findings to her superiors. In an emailed statement sent to Garden City Life, Congresswoman McCarthy reacted to the issues discussed at the EAB meeting. “Airplane noise affects a number of communities in my district, including Garden City. I, myself, am sometimes put off by the jet noise,” said Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. “Earlier this [session of] Congress, I pushed for several provisions in the House-passed FAA Reauthorization bill that would help address airplane noise. I have also arranged meetings with the FAA for myself and my constituents who toured the New York TRACON air traffic control facility with FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt to discuss noise and other issues, and a drafting legislation to provide a tax credit to individuals that want to soundproof their homes. This is an issue that I will continue to actively pursue in order to find a solution. My office received feedback at last week’s meeting from those affected most by this issue, which I am taking into consideration as I work to address this problem and ensure that the quality of life of my constituency is not adversely affected by air traffic in the area,” McCarthy said.

The EAB will not meet during the months of July and August. The next meeting is scheduled to take place in September.