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Unfriendly Skies

Air traffic debate rages on

The lives of many East Hills residents are being disrupted by excessive aircraft noise.


Prior to the commencement of a recent board of trustees meeting, a resident complained that the noise was making her life unbearable.  An elderly resident said that the booming noise was making it virtually impossible for her to pick up her mail in her mailbox at the end of the driveway.   Several similar remarks were heard.


Because the Village of East Hills is at a high elevation compared with other towns and villages, it bears the brunt of the problem.  In August of this year, there was nearly continuous air traffic over the community at very low altitudes.


This is due for the most part to airlines using the stepped approach in landing.  This approach brings the airlines closer to the ground earlier in their descent.  


The preferable approach is the approach known as “continuous descent.”  With this approach, the planes utilize a more gradual decline heading towards the terminal, thereby causing less ground noise and less disruption of residents’ lives.


According to Len Schaier, a Port Washington activist who has long been involved in this issue, the main culprits are runways 22L and 22R at John F. Kennedy Airport.  The percentage of all jets landing at JFK and using these runways has increased alarmingly, from 16.88 percent in 2010 to more than 40 percent today. Schaier’s information is at 


While affected citizens and government officials continue to voice their complaints about the overuse of these runways and underuse of the remaining runways, the Federal Aviation Authority’s (FAA) replies remain vague and non-responsive.  

Nonetheless, the FAA plans on making more and more use of these runways.


In order to address the excessive airplane noise issue head-on, a special committee of East Hills residents, with the full backing of Mayor Michael Koblenz has been formed.  According to the committee’s chairman, jet noise is much more problematical than just an annoyance or nuisance.  It can cause long-term health problems like deafness, pollution, anxiety, stress and learning disabilities.  And there are studies available to support these claims.


There are several approaches that can be taken to address the problem:  •  Support and urge others, including civic associations, to support a bill recently passed by both the New York State Senate and Assembly.  The bill mandates that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey conduct a land-use compatibility study according to Federal Regulations around JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports by June 1, 2014.  Also, biennial public hearings will be held for average citizens to input their views.


• Reach out to Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senators Kirsten Gillenbrand and Charles Schumer and urge them to support the bill. The bill becomes law after being signed by Governor Cuomo.  It also may need the support of the New Jersey Legislature and governor, because the Port Authority is shared by both states.


 • Utilize additional runways for landings, thus spreading the routes more equitably.


• Extend existing runways.


• Make more use of smaller, local airports.


With this information being disseminated, steps are being taken by the village to confront and overcome this problem.