PHOTO: Rep. Meng said that the previous version of the bill included ways to deal with the problem of excessive aircraft noise over Queens. File Photo
By Michael V. Cusenza
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) recently ripped the House for the final version of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, which did not feature any provisions to mitigate aircraft noise over the borough; and for the lack of transparency and the manner in which the bill was brought to the House Floor, pointing out that members were not allowed to offer any amendments, provide input, or address concerns of labor unions.
The measure, which passed Monday night, reauthorizes funding for the FAA and other air-travel programs.
“The absence of any measures to combat the problem of excessive aircraft noise over Queens and other affected communities across the country is a huge disappointment,” Meng said. “I have consistently called for this important legislation to include provisions to mitigate airplane noise. This bill would have allowed for an opportunity to directly address the issue, and the previous version of this legislation included ways to deal with it. It is also very unfortunate that this bill was rushed through while keeping House members out of the process. Our borough continues to be bombarded by the roaring sounds of aircraft noise that constantly disrupts the quality of life in our neighborhoods. A solution must be reached and I will keep up the fight until we achieve one.”
Meng noted that a previous version of the bill (the Aviation, Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act) that was not voted on included noise-related provisions for which she and the Quiet Skies Caucus. The AIRR Act included processes for notifying communities near airports of flight-path changes and a study on the health impacts of noise exposure.
In July 2015, the Quiet Skies Caucus, led by Meng, sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that outlined noise-mitigation measures to be part of the FAA bill:
- Mandate a robust community engagement process, including pre-decisional public hearings, for any new flight paths or procedures or changes to existing flight paths and procedures;
- Require FAA to use supplemental metrics when considering the impact of aviation noise on affected communities and lower the acceptable DNL threshold from 65 to 55 DNL
- Clarify that airport operators are legally allowed to implement-and should strongly consider-mitigation options in communities experiencing aircraft noise levels of less than 65 DNL
- Mandate independent research on the health impacts of aviation noise
“Every day, millions of Americans are forced to contend with acute levels of noise from passing aircraft-noise that disrupts their homes and businesses, negatively affects their health, and reduces their overall quality of life. We believe the 2015 Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act offers a unique opportunity to address this serious issue,” the officials wrote in the missive addressed to Reps. Bill Shuster and Peter DeFazio.
Although airplane noise has long existed over Queens, Meng noted, the problem increased significantly in 2012 due to the FAA’s implementation of new flight patterns over the borough.