Written by Melissa Argueta Friday, 09 March 2012 00:00
The term “ditched” is often used to describe aircrafts that are abandoned before making a crash landing. However, it equally describes the feeling emanating from Nassau County residents after they learned the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Port Authority would not be attending the last TVASNAC (Town/Village Aircraft Safety Noise & Abatement Committee) meeting on Mon., Feb. 27 in Garden City.
For the first time in its 40-year history, TVASNAC’s monthly meeting was held, in the lower level of the library in the Village of Garden City rather than its traditional location in the Village of Lawrence. “This is one of our first meetings outside [Lawrence] in an effort to outreach to the communities that we serve,” TVASNAC’s Executive Director Kendall Lampkin told a standing-room only crowd.
In an effort to have both sides of the aircraft noise issue represented, Lampkin stated that he sent letters to both the FAA and Port Authority officials to attend the meeting to address ongoing concerns over an increase in air traffic and noise over Western Nassau County. “We’ve gotten declines on all of those and to much regret, we will endeavor to carry on and hear the concerns that you folks have this evening,” Lampkin said.
Longtime TVASNAC Board Member and Floral Park Village Trustee Mary-Grace Tomecki spoke to the problems that many people in the village and surrounding communities are currently experiencing. On a large chart, Tomecki pointed out that the village is directly under the arrival path of John F. Kennedy Airport’s (JFK) runways 22L and 22R.
“Floral Park, on any given day, more specifically if winds are out of the south, would expect to experience approximately 60 to 80 airplanes flying over the community in a parallel runway approach. It affects 70 to 80 percent of the homes in Floral Park,” Tomecki said.
It was in the mid ’90s, when Tomecki said the village saw an increase in air traffic due to a result of changes in something known as the ‘high-density rule.” “It was a decision by the Clinton Administration to accommodate more air traffic to release what is known as a cap on the amount of airplanes that actually fly into and out of Kennedy Airport,” she said.
By 2005, Tomecki said, Floral Park was experiencing about 112 airplanes an hour. “So you can imagine that’s about three airplanes a minute, one after another, after another but flying parallel,” she said, adding that the same plane would also fly over New Hyde Park, Mineola and East Hills.
In 2007, a new flight cap restored limits to 85 airplanes per hour (which can be a combination of departures and arrivals), according to Tomecki. “The last six months, Floral Park, and I am going to speak for New Hyde Park and East Hills, for the first time during the winter months, we’ve seen an upsurge in air traffic on the overnight that is beyond abusive,” she said.
Floral Park is home to a noise monitor to measure noise decibel levels that is the property of the Port Authority. “The noise monitor is bordering what’s known as 65 DNL, which means according to the World Health Organization, is actually bordering on cruelty. It’s something that would be considered that would almost be bordering torture. You can’t have noise emanating in 65 DNL for extended periods of time. For the first time, Floral Park is,” Tomecki said.
These are decibel numbers usually equated with communities that are near the proximity of JFK such as Inwood, Tomecki explained. “Floral Park is suddenly getting noise levels of an Inwood and that’s coming from an increase in the volume,” she said.
Located seven miles from JFK, Tomecki said, the village has always been reasonable and realistic about air traffic but the rotation of runways has not been used recently. “What we have always advocated for and we have failed to see in the last few months is an equitable distribution of that air traffic. We have always wanted that and tonight we are here again. What we are asking for is a more frequent rotation of runways. That’s what we want. We know we are going to get air traffic; we want rotation,” she added.
Traveling from across Long Island and Queens, residents filed into the Garden City Library on Mon., Feb. 27 to give a voice to their concerns. It became increasingly apparent that residents were aggravated at the lack of communication between FAA officials and the public.
Leo Stimmler, a Garden City resident, applauded Carolyn McCarthy for voting against the FAA Reauthorization bill because there was not an environmental impact study in it. “My understanding is that Congressman Peter King voted for it [the bill]. So if anyone in this room, if he’s your representative, I hope you will let him know you are not happy about that,” Stimmler said.
Kurt Langjahr, a representative from New Hyde Park, said he was in favor of having a meeting close to where the traffic is. “Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and Senator Schumer…they can take action. If no plane can fly over the White House over the Capital. It took a congressional action. Who do we serve? We serve the people,” he said.
Frank O’Connor of Iris Street said he has lived in Floral Park since 1986 when there was very little air traffic over the village. “Originally 10 years ago, we were told ‘please bear with us for the temporary inconvenience because there were going to be repairs for runways’ and it hasn’t stopped. It’s only gotten worse,” he said.
O’Connor said it’s very disturbing and he has written to local officials but gotten very little response. “I can’t use my backyard at night. It’s that loud,” he added.
Garden City Village Trustee Laurence Quinn, chairperson of the Garden City Environmental Advisory Board and TVASNAC member, told Anton Newspapers that high level FAA and Port Authority officials were expected to attend the meeting as of two weeks ago. “Between Thursday and Friday, we got this bevy of emails saying ‘We can’t show. We’re not going to send a representative,’” Quinn said. “So it wasn’t that something came up. They decided they weren’t going to show up,” Quinn added.
TVASNAC’s liaison to the Village of Stewart Manor Cristina T. O’Keefe said she was sorry that the FAA and the Port Authority were not at the meeting. “I truly and sincerely hope that it is not a reflection of how they think of our concerns and our complaints and our lifestyle issues that we have with air traffic,” O’Keefe said.
East Williston’s TVASNAC representative Ray Gaudio was equally miffed at the news that no FAA or Port Authority officials would be attending the meeting. “Last time I checked, the FAA is a federal agency and all their employees are paid with our tax dollars. The fact that they’re not here is outrageous,” Gaudio said.
Representatives from Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy and State Senator Dean Skelos’ office, along with Assemblyman Ed Ra, Tom McKevitt were in attendance. “Our federal senators and congresspersons should take note and compel them possibly under oath to answer these questions that you have,” he added.