Dozens of press conferences and thousands of petitions later, the Village of East Hills is seeking support from Nassau County and the town of North Hempstead in suing the Federal Aviation Administration over what officials call excessive airplane traffic and noise.
Mayor Michael Koblenz said litigation was the village’s last resort and that it could not afford to shoulder the cost alone.
“There’s a limit to what you can do on your own,” Koblenz said. “The government has unlimited resources.”
Last week, Koblenz formally asked Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth to consider litigation to end the “intolerable conditions” that residents of East Hills and other North Shore villages experience.
The cause of the frustration are two flight paths to Kennedy Airport that pass over East Hills and other neighboring villages, both of which have seen an increase in traffic in previous years.
“The noise, vibrations, pollutants and other severe environmental burdens now seriously impact the quality of life in many Nassau County communities,” Koblenz wrote in his letter.
Koblenz said the village has made every attempt to mitigate the problem, including previously enlisting the support of local officials such as Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), and obtaining a $29,000 monitor to track aircraft noise from planes traveling to and from Kennedy Airport. However, these efforts have been “unavailing,” Koblenz said.
At a recent trustees meeting, some residents said that they’ve noticed more overnight flights. In 2015, North Hempstead’s 311 service fielded 163 calls about aircraft noise; there have been 44 thus far in 2016.
Planes flying overhead come so close that they can be identified, Koblenz added. According to FAA guidelines, planes must fly 1,000 feet above the highest obstacles in a congested area.
Last summer, the Port Authority installed five noise monitors throughout Nassau County: in the villages of East Hills, Franklin Square, Malverne, Old Brookville and Roslyn Heights, to track the decibel level of airplane engines. Koblenz said his village has no way of accessing data from the monitors.
The Village of East Hills, located about 12 miles from Kennedy Airport, is not alone in its complaints about commercial jets; other North Shore villages, such as Garden City, Floral Park, Valley Stream and New Hyde Park, have also been vocal about planes flying too often and too low.
East Hills officials said they are also reaching out to other municipalities for support. Spencer Kanis, chairman of the village Architectural Review Board, said he has contacted the Nassau County Village Officials Association, which includes 64 incorporated villages.
Koblenz said that he hoped village mayors would band together to lobby the towns of North Hempstead, Hempstead and Oyster Bay to join together in a lawsuit.
“The FAA is too big a project for just one little village to do it,” Koblenz said. “We want an equal partner.”