FAA grant soundproofs school near LaGuardia

A file photo of LaGuardia Airport. (Oct. 7, A file photo of LaGuardia Airport. (Oct. 7, 2010) Photo Credit: Uli Seit, File

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Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, a small aviation-centered school in Queens, is getting a multimillion-dollar makeover designed to insulate it from its noisy neighbor -- LaGuardia Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration is giving the college a $22.3-million grant to soundproof its main building, a 110,000-square-foot structure on 23rd Avenue in Flushing that houses classrooms and offices.

Sharon B. DeVivo, Vaughn's senior vice president, said the grant will cover the cost of a new roof, windows and doors, plus new air-conditioning and ventilation systems. Windows will be double-glazed to reduce noise and vibration.

Students who sit in class now often have to tell instructors to repeat themselves. In administrative offices, phone conversations are often interrupted by an apologetic "Hold on, I can't hear you" as a jet thunders down the runway across the street.

Students accustomed to the noise barely looked up from their computer screens Tuesday in the second-story library as the quiet was broken every few minutes.

The 1,600-student school initially sought the funding in 2001, the first of two proposals.

"It looks like 10 years was worth the wait," DeVivo said.

The school offers certification programs in air traffic control, aircraft maintenance and flight training.

FAA spokesman Jim Peters said the soundproofing grant is in addition to more than $5 million put up by the Port Authority, which operates LaGuardia. The FAA previously provided $1.7 million to measure the noise and design the fixes.

Runways 22 and 4 are the biggest culprits, creating noise levels inside the main building of up to 98 and 83 decibels, respectively. That's noisier than a garbage disposal or vacuum cleaner.

The goal of the project is to reduce the interior noise to a worst-case level of 55 decibels.

The college, informed of the grant last week, can now start planning a construction schedule with its architect and general contractor.

"For an aviation institution to be close to an airport has a lot of advantages," DeVivo said. "This project means we can see it and experience it, but without having to hear it."

The soundproofing will center around a building that dates back to 1941. A residence hall built in 2004 was designed with the airport noise in mind, DeVivo said.

"We've been here as long as they have," she said of the airport next door. "It makes sense to have us here."

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