There’s some big news this week. Many of you are frustrated and think we can’t make change. I say otherwise. We always said it would be slow but it’s happening.
GAO TO AUDIT FAA NOISE METRICS AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH
The Government Accountability Office is a federal agency that works for Congress. The GAO’s job is to investigate federal spending and performance, analyze policies and in many other ways hold federal agencies accountable to the public. GAO staffers design an investigation, called an audit, including research and interviews. The end result is a formal report to Congress, which is taken seriously by Congress members and the federal agency being investigated.
Members of Congress this week asked the GAO to do an audit of the FAA’s practices regarding NextGen implementation in major metro areas, including noise metrics and community outreach. Click here to see the letter in MS Word.
Click here to see the letter in PDF.
The three members of Congress from the NY metro area who signed the letter are Grace Meng, Kathleen Rice and Nydia Velazquez. This GAO audit is a huge step forward for us. On behalf of Queens Quiet Skies, I thank all the Congress members who requested the study.
I have been in touch with the GAO. I asked to give testimony on behalf of Queens Quiet Skies members and that will happen.
You can see the full questions that Congress asked the GAO to answer, by clicking on a link to the letter above. I will outline them briefly here
Metrics and route changes
1. How does the FAA consider noise impacts when implementing new routes as part of its Metroplex initiative? Is the FAA consistent in how it considers and reports on noise impacts of NextGen and new flight paths across all Metroplex projects?
2. Do the FAA’s methods of measuring a significant increase in noise actually capture negative impacts? Considering negative community responses, should the FAA change its metrics?
3. Does the FAA measure and disclose noise impacts from changes to flight paths the same way as it does noise impacts at airports?
4. Has the FAA gotten any better at disclosing noise impacts since it started implementing NextGen? Has it changed how it addresses noise impact in response to litigation and settlements or requests from Congress?
5. Does the FAA use the right data for environmental review of route changes? Has the agency actually changed flight paths before formal implementation of new routes?
6. How does the FAA communicate with the public and use public input when it plans new flight procedures? Have the FAA’s practices been adequate in the view of aviation stakeholders and community members?
7. How is the FAA measuring the adequacy of its public engagement and outreach?
8. Is the Instrument Flight Procedure Information Gateway sufficiently accessible to the public?
9. When the FAA settled litigation about flight route changes, did the agency follow its own internal procedures and did it adequately consult with affected communities?
“I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”
I saw “Network” on Broadway a few weeks ago and I thought of us, about our struggle to be heard and to assert our rights against a mega-bucks industry and the government agencies that serve the airlines instead of us. Almost every day, I get emails from you. You tell me you can’t sleep, your walls shake from the noise, your kids can’t do their homework, you’re afraid of what the noise and pollution are doing to your family’s health. A reporter asked me the other day to describe the noise we complain about. I said, “It’s like a toothache or an earache. When you’ve got it, you can’t think about anything else. All you can think about is making it go away.”
Many of you tell me you feel voiceless and powerless and ask what you can do. I think the GAO should hear from all of us. So here’s what I’d like you to do. Please write a statement to the GAO and send it to me by email at QueensQuietSkies@aol.com. Give your testimony about your experience of living with NextGen noise and pollution; write your ideas and answers to the questions posed by the members of Congress. I will print them and submit them. I will also take them with me to next month’s meeting of the NextGen Advisory Committee in Washington. I will present them to the Chairman of the NAC, the industry group that plans these airline flight routes without our input. We will post some of them on the QQS website.
Please send your statements to me by email by July 25th. Tell your neighbors. Elected officials and civic leaders, please share with your constituents and members. I will take anyone’s statement, no matter where you live.
STATE LEGISLATURE PASSES AIRPORT ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY BILL
The New York State legislature this week passed the bill to fund a study of the environmental impact of JFK and LGA airports. On June 6th, it passed in the Senate, introduced by Sen. Jim Gaughran, Sen. Anna Kaplan and Sen. Kevin Thomas. At 3 A.M. on June 21st, the bill passed the Assembly. It was introduced by AM Judy Griffin and co-sponsored by AMs Ed Braunstein, Michaele Solages, Rebecca Seawright, Daniel O’Donnell, Vivian Cook, Jaime Williams, Felix Ortiz, Anthony D’Urso, Alicia Hyndman, Michelle Titus and Joseph Lentol. It has to be signed by Gov. Cuomo within 10 days to be enacted.
Here is the text:
Bill S5855/A7710 Directs the department of environmental conservation, with the assistance of the department of transportation, to conduct a study on the impacts of John F. Kennedy international airport and LaGuardia airport
You may have noticed that the language of the bill is a bit mushy. In the last QQS Newsletter, I suggested ways to make it more focused in actual practice.
This bill would never have passed without the efforts of our colleagues at Plane Sense 4 LI. The Plane Sense members pushed their state representatives hard. I am giving a shout-out to Jana Goldenberg and Elaine Miller of Plane Sense and all their members.
Two aviation-focused community advocacy groups in the metro NYC area worked with our elected officials to get this study for us: Queens Quiet Skies and Plane Sense 4 LI. We work for all our communities, not for the FAA and the Port Authority. and not only for the neighborhoods in which we live. Both organizations should be asked to give substantive input into the planning of the state environmental study. We will remind our representatives as it gets underway. I’ll be sure to let you know what they say.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND THE FAA SCIENCE FAIRS
In November, 2018, I wrote the following in the QQS Newsletter:
“Section 182 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 mandates that the FAA solicit public comment in impacted areas by holding public hearings about the North Shore Helicopter Route within 30 days of enactment of the law.
The FAA announced what it billed as several public hearings to be held last week, ostensibly to comply with the new law. As predicted here, the agency instead held workshops. FAA workshops are like science fairs. They have exhibits to look at. You tour the exhibits. At the end, you can fill out a form with a comment. No FAA decision-makers ever appear at these events. There is no meeting. That’s not a public hearing. “
The U.S. Department of Transportation, of which the FAA is a part, has published detailed instructions about how to hold a public hearing and the differences between public hearings and public workshops. Presumably, FAA management is aware of its own agency’s guidelines.
Now our FAA Region 2 has once again substituted workshops for a public hearing, this time on the proposed LGA AirTrain. Instead of listening to the public, the FAA tells us what they’ve decided to do. Communities affected by the AirTrain plans have not been heard. The New York Region of the FAA has shown us consistently that — despite what we hear from FAA headquarters — it has no intention of changing its inadequate community involvement policies. We know that, too, from the Regional Director’s recent statement in a letter to QQS, that the FAA will not “engage” community stakeholders. It is certainly an issue I will testify about to the GAO.
Our questions about the phantom LGA Part 150 noise mitigation study have been stonewalled for a year now, with the cheery assurances that I don’t need to worry my little community-girl head about it because someday there will be “public review” of the study conclusions. I hope “public review” doesn’t mean more FAA science fairs.
And speaking of phantom FAA studies, we are now past the two-year mark of the promised date for release of the Neighborhood Annoyance Survey (or whatever it’s called this month). Now the projected release date is 2020. That means the FAA’s metroplex plans will be finished before the public gets to see the results of the survey. What a coincidence!
QQS will soon make another FOIA request for the results of the noise annoyance survey. Last year, the FAA told us it had given the results back to the contractor, so it could not produce them. We could start a pool on what they’ll say this year.
LETTER TO GOV. CUOMO FROM A LONGTIME AVIATION ACTIVIST
Fran Gould was one of the founders of Plane Sense 4 LI. She recently sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo, which follows
Dear Governor Cuomo,
Thank you for your strong support of The Affordable Care Act.
I was heartened to hear you state that in New York, health care should be treated as a human right and not a luxury. Needless to say, this approach would further the important goal of creating a healthy lifestyle in a clean environment.
Unfortunately, research at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health (and recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health) clearly indicates that we are in grave medical danger resulting from the implementation of FAA’s NextGen – a program that ignores our human rights to a healthy environment by its reckless aviation expansion in our New York area.
Further evidence of this critical information is found by environmental health researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, who cited the fact that environmental stressors could have a hazardous effect on our MENTAL health as well as our physical well-being, noting particularly, that the increasing number of urban dwellers are particularly at risk.
Human rights are ignored in favor of fiscal efficiency!
But, just what are our human rights? These were clearly defined in the United Nations Charter on Human Rights written in 1948. At that time,Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the late president,declared the rights that everyone in the world should have:
“In small places,close to home –so close that they cannot be
seen on any maps of the world. But they are the world of the
individual person; the neighborhood he lives in, the school or
college he attends, the factory, farm or office where he works.
Such are the places where every man,woman and child
seeks equal justice, equal opportunity — equal dignity.
Unless these rights have meaning THERE they have little
meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to
uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress
in the larger world.”
Here are a few relevant articles from the charter that we can apply to our community:
Article 12: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary
interference with his privacy, family
Article 24: Everyone has the right to rest and leisure.
Article 9: Everybody has the right to make complaints
about the policies and actions of individuals
and government bodies with regard to violations
of human rights reviewed.
So, as stated in Article 9, what can we do to make our serious concerns known
to the FAA? In the past we have been asked to phone the FAA/PA but now there is a new widget (that appeared on the front page of the Wall Street
Journal recently) called AirNoise button or AirNoise app.
AirNoise Button’s inventor got tired of filling out noise complaint forms so he designed a button to make noise complaints easy and quick. The program files complaint for each resident with the Port Authority’s Noise and Complaint
System.When the button arrives the person installs the app on their wireless network. Once installed, all they need to do is press the button on top or press their phone whenever a plane is overhead, receiving a detailed report once the complaint is filed. It has been successfully used in 10 cities and is responsible for conveying several hundred thousand objections.
For further information, please visit the company’s website which is AirNoise.io the button and app costing $24.00 and an additional $5 monthly subscription.
With the recent expansion of JFK runways, preparing them for possible 24-hour jumbo jetliners and the recent deal reached by American Airliners, British Airways and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for a $ 344 Million terminal expansion, as well as the planned $ 13 Billion expansion and renovation of JFK expected to take place over the next several years, we can expect increased, heavy plane activity.
In addition, the FAA is planning to ease noise restrictions for testing and promoting the development of supersonic commercial airliners during take-offs and landings, with NextGen having more landings and take-offs than other types of planes.
Despite the fact that supersonic planes had been discontinued because of noise levels and sonic booms, they are coming back, as supersonic proponents have been lobbying Congress for some time with new noise limits for supersonic segments of flights.
This is the plan for NextGen so keeping aware of that AirButton website might be a very good idea!
Governor Cuomo,we need your continuing help in addressing New York’s medical concerns and the resulting violations of our human rights. One way in which you could help right now is to recognize the newly-formed Nassau Aviation Committee, established to combat aircraft noise (with or without FAA participation) and work with its members, composed of 16 politicians from both parties.Your input would be meaningful and well-respected.
We are on a roll, working with our community colleagues in Nassau and all around the country, and with our federal and state electeds. You may be seeing us this summer at community events with our QQS info table. If there is an event you’d like us to attend, please let me know.