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Lawmakers want impact of aircraft noise addressed in new bill

A large passenger jet passes over the home

A large passenger jet passes over the home of Mary-Grace Tomecki Thursday, May 1, 2014, one of the homes and streets in Floral Park directly in the path of jets landing at JFK airport's runway 22L. Tomecki has been working for years to get officials at the FAA and the Port Authority, which operates the airport, to reduce aircraft noise. Credit: Craig Ruttle

A group of lawmakers working to lessen the impact of aircraft noise on communities across the country wants a handful of measures -- including mandating research on the effect airplane noise has on public health -- to be added to a bill that sets funding and policy priorities for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Sixteen members of the Quiet Skies Caucus, which includes Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), wrote to the chairman and ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which is drafting the legislation, asking them to incorporate fixes to help alleviate aircraft noise over neighborhoods.

"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," the July 15 letter stated.

Among the requests are:

Requiring the FAA to give residents advance notice and a chance to be heard before it creates new flight paths or makes changes to existing ones.

Mandating the FAA lower the noise-exposure threshold from 65 DNL (day-night average sound level), established in the 1970s, to 55 DNL.

Clarifying that airport operators can use federal Airport Improvement Program funds to mitigate homes in areas below 65 DNL.

Getting an independent group to study the relationship between public health and long-term exposure to aircraft noise.

Len Schaier, president of the Port Washington-based group, said this is the first time in a decade that federal lawmakers have put forth concrete provisions on airplane noise.

"To me, it's a giant step," Schaier said yesterday. "It means we made the point with our Congress members."

Even if the measures make their way into the House version of the FAA Reauthorization Act, they won't become law unless the Senate adopts the same.

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the senator pledges to "work with the community to lessen noise impacts and to strike the right balance between aircraft traffic and our communities."

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) did not return a call for comment yesterday.

"Senators Schumer and Gillibrand can't sit on the sideline anymore," Schaier said. "If we don't get the senators on board, we have nothing."

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