Long Island residents, legislators urge study on health impact of jet noise

State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin says sound is 'excessive, harmful to humans and needs to be mitigated'

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Thanks to the concerted efforts of the founders of the newly formed Nassau County Aviation Committee, elected officials hope to introduce legislation that will address jet noise.

State Sen. Jim Gaughran and State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, of Rockville Centre, proposed a bill last week that would study the environmental and human health impacts of John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport. The proposed legislation would require the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation to examine and report on the effects of air traffic from JFK and LaGuardia.

“The noise is excessive, harmful to humans and needs to be mitigated,” Griffin said at the aviation committee’s news conference on May 17. “Although we will always endure a level of airplane noise, I am hopeful that this study will illustrate that many residents are faced with excessive noise way above the acceptable level.”

Malvernite Elaine Miller, one of the co-founders of the aviation committee, said that the group’s main goal is to improve quality of life for residents of Nassau County.

“That will have to be done through numerous ways, but especially legislation,” Miller said. “The effects of plane noise have been brought to the forefront, and it seems that since the formation of this group, the ball has really been rolling.”

Rockville Centre resident Stefanie Handsman told the Herald in a phone interview last week that jet noise had disrupted her for the last 10 days or so. It could be heard each night, she said, sometimes as late as after midnight, and also around 5 to 6 a.m. She said she had lived in Rockville Centre for 31 years and never encountered this problem previously.

“It sounds like it’s at very low altitude,” Handsman said. “You can feel the vibrations.”

State Assemblyman Ed Ra said that in 2012, he helped pass legislation for the current Part 150 noise study, which is examining the impact of plane noise in areas below the flight paths of Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. He said that this study led to roundtable meetings, in which elected officials, community leaders and business people meet with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to address concerns at JFK and LaGuardia airports. However, Ra said that Nassau County has been under-represented at those meetings.

“We need a true voice when it comes to aviation issues,” Ra said. “We need balance. We need an opportunity for our communities to enjoy their properties.”

In addition to the Part 150 study, NextGen was also implemented in 2012. It is a satellite GPS technology that has saved $1.6 billion by reducing jets’ time in the air and their use of fuel, according to the FAA. Miller said that it has not helped to mitigate jet noise.

One of the reasons for the recent rise in jet noise is the increased number of arrivals and departures — 35 to 70 percent more because of the Port Authority’s runway project at Kennedy Airport, which began on April 1. County Legislator Howard Kopel, who represents parts of Rockville Centre, said that while he understands that he lives near an airport, more should be done to address jet noise.

“I can practically reach up and shake hands with some of the pilots,” Kopel said. “I know that we can’t move the airports, but there has to be a way that we can divert some of the traffic.”

Jana Goldenberg, who is also a co-founder of the Nassau County Aviation Committee, said the next step is getting the proposed legislation passed in the Senate and the Assembly.

“We don’t let grass grow under our feet,” Goldenberg said. “We’re going to work until we can live in peace and quiet and know that we’re not being killed by the toxic fumes flying over us.”

Ben Strack contributed to this story.