About 250 people rallied Sunday against noise from jets landing and taking off at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, saying that changed flight patterns over the past few years have made backyards unusable and altered neighborhoods for the worse.
Elected officials, including Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), called for reduced noise levels deemed acceptable and additional noise abatement programs by the Port Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration.
"Living on Long Island, it's like living in Baghdad during the war," Israel said at the rally in Cunningham Park, near Fresh Meadows, Queens. Israel has said he would withhold billions in FAA funding if the agency doesn't keep a promise to limit night flights over some Nassau County communities.
He and 25 other lawmakers from across the country sent a letter Friday urging the FAA to lower its acceptable noise pollution level to 55 decibels from the 65-decibel day-night average sound level.
"Rather than addressing this issue piecemeal in fragmented areas of the nation, we believe it is time for the FAA to tackle this issue on a national level," the representatives wrote.
The current noise standard, which has been in place since the 1970s, "is no longer a reliable measure of the true impact of aircraft noise."
Representatives from Queens Quiet Skies, an advocacy group that organized Sunday's rally, said that a lower standard would allow for more areas to qualify for subsidized soundproofing and force more dispersed flight paths.
About three years ago, Elaine Miller said planes started flying over her house in the Nassau County village of Malverne, where she had lived 15 years.
"It was a peaceful community," said Miller, who teaches the deaf and hard of hearing. "Now it's a nightmare."
She came to the rally because she said it was important for groups that want the FAA to be responsive to public concerns to stick together.
Lynn Andres, who has lived in Bayside for 27 years, said her neighborhood changed two years ago when the steady stream of planes started flying over her house. "I just woke up one day, heard a plane and thought it was going to crash into my house," she said.
She said backyard barbecues and neighborly chats have all been impeded by the planes. "I haven't had my windows open in a year and a half." In a statement Sunday, the FAA blamed predominant winds from the north for increased air traffic over some areas.