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Israel threatens to withhold FAA funds over night jet arrivals

FILE: Airplanes on the runway of Kennedy Airport,

FILE: Airplanes on the runway of Kennedy Airport, as a boater passes by on the waters of Head Of Bay in Queens, on Aug. 13, 2012. Credit: Uli Seit

Rep. Steve Israel Wednesday threatened to withhold billions in funding from the Federal Aviation Administration if officials don't stick to a promise of limiting the number of nighttime flights over some Nassau County communities.

Israel demanded that FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta, whose agency regulates air traffic, abide by the terms of the agreement signed in 2000, which, in part, said Runway 22L at Kennedy Airport would be used to land planes at night under very limited circumstances.

"If they don't provide me with a satisfactory answer, I intend to use all the tools in my toolbox to compel them to do so," Israel (D-Huntington) said at a news conference in East Hills to rousing applause.

Israel pledged to use his power to force the FAA, which he referred to as the "federal arrogance administration," to respond to residents' yearslong complaints that horrendous noise generated by jets flying above their homes at all hours has destroyed any semblance of peace and quiet in their suburban neighborhoods. Commercial jets landing on Runway 22L -- one of four at the airport -- fly over communities, including East Hills, the Village of Old Brookville, New Hyde Park and Garden City.

"I am contemplating doing an amendment to their appropriations that strikes their funding if they can't show accountability," Israel said.

Jim Peters, a spokesman for the FAA, declined to be interviewed and issued a statement.

"The FAA is reviewing the agreement about runway usage at JFK Intl. Airport," Peters said in an email. "We will respond directly to any correspondence we receive from elected officials."

On Sept. 1, 2000, in response to residents' complaints about air traffic noise, Loretta J. Martin, air traffic manager for New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, or TRACON, an entity of the FAA, and George A. Dodelin, air traffic manager for Kennedy Tower, agreed to rotate runways every eight hours when possible.

"Runways 22L/R shall not be used for arrival traffic between [11 p.m. and 7 a.m.] unless traffic, delays, weather or construction prevent the use of any other arrival runway," they said in the agreement.

FAA officials, Israel said, have failed to live up to their promise because the number of nighttime flights on Runway 22L spiked more than a third in 2013 over the previous year.

There were 11,520 planes that landed on that runway between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. last year, compared with 8,497 in 2012, an increase of nearly 36 percent, according to the airport manager, the Port Authority. No other runway had such an increase in night arrivals during the same period.

Like other elected officials at other levels of government -- the village, the town, the county and the state -- Israel has been bombarded with complaints from his constituents. Although he has had behind-the-scenes conversations, Israel is bringing the fight into the public sphere to put pressure on FAA officials to pay attention and to act.

Residents have gathered and sent thousands of signatures to the FAA and the Port Authority asking for relief, but they've been ignored, said East Hills Village Mayor Michael Koblenz.

"We don't control the FAA," Koblenz said. "All we can do is keep complaining."

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