October Newsletter

Dear Neighbors:

There’s been some news in the past few weeks that I want to share with you.
 
THE CITY OF PHOENIX WINS ITS LAWSUIT AGAINST THE FAA
 
At the end of August, the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit issued its decision in the City of Phoenix’s petition asking the FAA to review the implementation of PBN (NextrGen) flight routes.  The court affirmed the City’s petition, finding that the FAA broke its own rules by not engaging stakeholders in a meaningful way before implementing the flight route changes.  In addition, the court found that the FAA did not consider the impact of its new flight routes on historic preservation areas.
I waited a month to share this with you because it is possible that the FAA will ask for review by all the judges on the DC Court of Appeals.  I haven’t heard anything further, though, so perhaps this decision will stand as is.
Here is a link to the court’s decision.
 
The ruling sends the FAA back to the beginning of decision-making.  Theoretically, they could come to the same conclusion as before, but this time they will have to follow their own rules.
It brings to mind the FAA plan we heard at the LGA Roundtable meeting in June.  The agency presented us with a plan to change a flight route without engaging stakeholders in decision-making.  After the meeting, the FAA agreed to start the decision-making process over again and include the stakeholders as is required.  
 
The FAA  has agreed to change PBN routes at John Wayne Airport in Newport Beach, California, because of noise complaints.  They will reduce noise by using curved PBN routes, something that might be useful in the metro NY airspace.
 
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CONGRESS EXTENDS 2012 FAA REAUTHORIZATION ACT
Every few years, Congress gives the FAA its new budget and directions in a reauthorization act.  The last reauthorization act was passed in 2012.  It was due to be updated in 2016 but was extended for further discussion and revisions.
A new FAA reauthorization was proposed a few months ago.  As you may recall, our Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus asked advocacy groups for suggestions to amend the proposed act.  Queens Quiet Skies’ proposals were among those considered and offered as amendments.  Sen. Schumer and Sen. Gillibrand also asked QQS for our opinion on the Senate’s version of the bill.
One of the big sticking points for this legislation is the proposal by House Republicans and the airline industry to privatize air traffic control.   As I told you last month, it is our organization’s position that privatization will give control of the nation’s airspace to the airline industry without any guarantee that the public will see substantive change for the better.
Last week, we heard that the 2012 reauthorization act has again been extended, to give Congress members more time to consider.
In the meantime, Rep. Bill Lynch of Massachusetts introduced an aviation bill into Congress.  The bill would require the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to convene a committee of health and environmental science experts within 30 days. The committee would examine the health impacts of air traffic noise and pollution and issue the Expert Consensus Report with their findings. The report would be submitted to the FAA Administrator, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and relevant Congressional Committees, including the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.


Rep. Lynch introduced similar legislation last year.  Here is this year’s press release:  Press release 

 
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A MODEST PROPOSAL for preventing the New York Aviation Roundtables From being a Burthen to Their Stakeholders and Their State, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick
 
I have been ignoring the aviation roundtables, even when the two roundtable chairs appointed new members by themselves, without advance notice or a vote.  But the hijinks continue, particularly concerning membership and whether the public (remember the public?) is allowed to participate in Roundtable meetings and deliberations.  
 
It’s been 8 months since the roundtable bylaws were approved.  To my knowledge, not one substantial accomplishment has resulted.  We spent 3 years fighting about the bylaws and now we see one of the Roundtable chairs ignoring the bylaws and making up new ones in order to get additional membership for her cronies. And no other member has stepped up to stop it.    
 
As I predicted a long time ago, these cockamamie bylaws allow a small group of besties to make secret decisions, appoint each other and their friends to all the membership positions and exclude the public.  Membership, votes and control have become the Holy Grail, instead of problem-solving and service to the community.
 
There’s a new RT rule that prevents members of the public from commenting or asking questions until the very end of the meeting.  At the latest LGA Roundtable meeting, we learned that you can’t discuss something if it’s not on the agenda — and it will only get on the agenda if the two chairs agree to it in advance.   An aviation roundtable is supposed to be a place where anyone can join in discussions about aviation matters, ask questions, air their concerns and propose solutions.  That is not the vision of the current RT leadership.
 
Queens Quiet Skies members drove the campaign to establish a functioning public aviation roundtable in New York.  We have been thwarted time and again. In the meantime, there’s been no movement at all on the problems the Roundtable is supposed to resolve.
 
The fundamental reason why it’s not working is because the picture has changed since I wrote the first draft bylaws in February 2013.  I used as a model the successful roundtables in California, in which the members have votes, the airport operating authority (for example, the Port Authority) is a voting member, and all members agree in writing to abide by the decisions of the Roundtable members as a whole.  Many other rules of successful roundtables were jettisoned by the current Roundtable management.  They opted instead for a closed system without transparency and public input.  There has been an unrelenting, unproductive power struggle among individuals, groups and elected officials about who votes, how many votes they have and which territory in the metro area will be most powerful.  
 
What’s changed since 2013 is that the current chairs allowed the Port Authority to avoid membership and got rid of the requirement that members agree in writing to follow the decisions of the roundtable.  What remains is a voluntary association with no real power at all, in which voting and membership are irrelevant.   All the bones these people are scrapping over are illusory, unimportant and unnecessary for a functioning roundtable.  They should be eliminated because they are roadblocks.    
 
The roundtable is perceived by many, and wrongly, as a zero-sum game; that is, some people have to lose in order for others to win.  The political power struggle model is inappropriate where consensus-building will get us solutions to our problems.
 
Therefore, I will make four suggestions.  
 
1. RT members — that means you too, elected officials —  should step up to the plate and amend the bylaws, which are grossly unfair and unworkable.  The bylaws impede public participation and incorporate secret deal-making in Tammany Hall style.  
 
2  In amending the bylaws, we should drop the emphasis on membership, which would only be important if there were a written agreement by the members to implement RT decisions.  Since the NY RT is only advisory, and the Port Authority refuses to be a member, RT membership means nothing because RT votes do not effectuate anything.  There is no need for officers or members and no need for formal voting.   
 
3.  In amending the bylaws, we should also eliminate rigid rules and hierarchical forms of participation and decision-making.  RT meetings can be convened and run by the professional facilitator.   People who are interested will attend, the facilitator can appoint committees to work on agenda items, and a sense of the meeting can be taken after agenda items are considered at meetings that are open and welcoming to the public.  
 
4.  Current  RT meetings and decision-making are neither fair nor transparent.  It is unseemly for the Port Authority and FAA to cooperate with RT leaders who will not even follow their own bylaws.   Until the bylaws are amended to promote fairness and transparency, the PA and FAA  should withdraw their cooperation, which equals approval of, and complicity with, what are sometimes rather shady dealings in the current RT.  And our elected representatives should not be enabling it either.
 
Think about it for a moment:  no more fights about membership and territory, no more exclusion, no more senseless restrictions, no more rigid agendas and unprincipled jockeying for power — just stakeholders working together to fix our noise and pollution problems together. No top dogs, just worker bees who check their egos at the door.  If you can think of a reason why we should not amend the bylaws to rid ourselves of the roadblocks, I’d like to hear it.  
 
The bottom line is:  it’s just not working.  Let’s fix it.
 
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NIGHT TIME AIRCRAFT NOISE MAKES PEOPLE SICK
Our colleague Mark McEnearney (no relation!!) from the DC area often posts articles that I share with you.  This is one of them.   There’s an old Latin phrase that lawyers use:  “res ipsa loquitor.”  It means, “the thing speaks for itself.”   It certainly does.
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TWO PUBLIC MEETINGS IN OCTOBER
 
(1)  The two Roundtables are meeting together on the evening of October 30th.  There is no location yet.  What makes this meeting worth attending is that FAA officials from Washington will be making a presentation.  I don’t know if you will be allowed to ask questions or make comments, since we are not RT members but merely the lowly taxpayers who are paying the bills for the RT.   One of the speakers will be Julie Marks,  the FAA’s newish director of community engagement.  I have found Julie to be a straight shooter and very fair to QQS.  I will let you know as soon as the Roundtable bosses tell us where they’re meeting.
(2)  The Technical Advisory Committee of the LGA Part 150 Noise Mitigation Study will be meeting on October 19th from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM  at LGA Hanger 7 Center, 3rd floor.   Parking is available only in Parking Lot 6 (directly across from Hangar 7).
The notes from the last meeting are at this link:  http://panynjpart150.com/LGA_TAC.asp The members will talk about the preliminary Report outline; the draft revised noise contours (65, 70 and  75 dbs); preliminary noise abatement strategies that were selected for modeling; and a review of the project schedule.
 
I will be out of town that day.  If you attend, please let me know what you think.
 
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Last month was the 5th anniversary of the founding of Queens Quiet Skies.  We’ve accomplished a lot.  We started a national movement.  We’ve changed the discussion about aviation in the NY metro area.  We are working with elected representatives on legislation and strategy.  And yet…. it’s been really noisy where I live for the past few weeks.  So much has changed, but on days like today it might as well still be 2012.   Still not acceptable, FAA and Port Authority.  Still waiting for real change.
 
I’ve been making noise complaints as Rep. Meng asked us to do.  The system, while better than it was before, is still really cumbersome and difficult.   But we persist.  Thanks to all of you who keep persisting.
 
Janet
 

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