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Noise activists: JFK repair to cause headache for months

This aerial view of Kennedy Airport on Dec.

This aerial view of Kennedy Airport on Dec. 9, 2011, shows the residential communities around it. Credit: Getty Images / Bruce Bennett

Several Nassau communities east of Kennedy Airport will see an increase in flights when repairs to the main arrivals runway begin this month, causing a temporary change in takeoff and landing patterns.

That will mean more airplane noise in areas such as Cedarhurst, Lawrence, Inwood and Atlantic Beach, activists and residents say.

“In the summer, it’s going to be really bad,” predicted Carl Baessler, 66, a member of a local noise abatement committee for 26 years. He lives in Atlantic Beach at the western tip of Long Beach island and just southeast of the airport.

The project, a renovation of Runway 4 Right 22 Left, begins Feb. 27 and continues until December, according to the Port Authority, which operates the airport.

During that time, some airplane noise will be shifted away from central Nassau areas north of Kennedy, such as Floral Park and New Hyde Park, activists and residents say.

The runway, running northeast to southwest, is one of four at the airport and mostly handles arrivals, the agency said. Last year, the runway accounted for 91,355 of the 225,053 landings at Kennedy, the Port Authority said.

The agency said it could not predict how specific flights would be changed by the runway’s closing because arrival and departure patterns are set by the Federal Aviation Administration, and federal air traffic controllers direct inbound and outbound flights.

Neither the Port Authority nor the FAA would comment on which communities would be affected by the changes.

Baessler is the Atlantic Beach representative on the Town-Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee, made up of representatives from localities within the Town of Hempstead that are affected by airport noise.

He said that during the summer there is usually an increase in overhead flights because southerly winds dictate a change in runway use. “Inwood is the path of cargo flights and those planes are older, heavier and noisier,” Baessler said.

Baessler and other activists said they based their opinions on what had happened during previous runway closures over the years.

Another member of the noise abatement group, Hezzie Cibere, 78, of Inwood, said complaints about noise have fallen on deaf ears. “People come to our meetings and complain. They think if they complain it will stop. It doesn’t,” she said.

“We’ve known this was coming for some time,” she said of the runway project. “There’s really nothing we can do about it.”

Her neighborhood has a noise monitor, installed in the summer of 2015 as part of an ongoing study of noise at the three major area airports, Kennedy and LaGuardia in Queens and Newark Liberty in New Jersey.

Property owners found to experience high levels of airplane noise might be eligible for federal funds to install sound-muffling features.

Mary-Grace Tomecki of Floral Park, northeast of the airport, said the change will provide temporary relief for her neighborhood, but flight patterns will change back after the runway work is finished.

“There has been an intensification of flights for the last 10 to 12 years,” she said. “It’s not just the noise, it’s the sheer volume of flights. You can hear the next plane approaching as one is going overhead. It’s constant noise and vibration.”

Tova Plaut, 46, who has lived in Lawrence for the past three decades, said she has been complaining about the noise for years. “If you complained a lot, they’d send it over another area for a few days, and then they’re back,” she said.

Community activists have been critical of how the Federal Aviation Administration measures noise. The FAA uses an average of the noise generated over a 24-hour period at any one spot on the ground, which does not accurately reflect the noise when a plane goes overhead, the activists say.

The measurement, called a Day-Night Average Noise Level or DNL, is expressed in decibels. The FAA considers a DNL of 65 decibels or above too high for residential neighborhoods.

Nassau residents are concerned that the problem will only get worse. The gradual installation of a national GPS-based flight tracking system called NextGen allows planes to fly closer to one another, as well as more takeoffs and landings on any given day.

Tomecki said she has accepted that some airport noise will be there as long as she lives in Floral Park and Kennedy remains an airport.

“You cannot move Floral Park. You cannot move JFK. All we ask for is a more equitable way, with more frequent rotation of runways,” she said. “There has to be some reason injected into this.”


Rehabilitation work on Kennedy Airport Runway 4R-22L is to begin Feb. 27. Work involves milling and pavement of the full length of Runway 4R-22L, the realignment of taxiways H and F, and electrical work.

The runway, constructed in the 1960s, was last rehabilitated in 2002. The surface has become old and brittle and is breaking up in places.

Phase I. First full continuous closure of Runway 4R-22L starts at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 27 and ends at 6 a.m. on June 1.

Phase II. Nightly closures of Runway 4R-22L, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., start June 1 and end Sept. 5.

Phase III. Second full continuous closure of Runway 4R-22L starts at 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 5 and ends at 6 a.m. on Nov. 17. Official completion is in December.

Source: Port Authority, Federal Aviation Administration



Kennedy Airport, with 4,930 acres, is the largest airport in the metropolitan area and has four runways and six terminals. In 2015, it handled 1.2 million tons of cargo and 56.8 million passengers. It is served by more than 70 airlines and had 438,800 operations in 2015. An operation is a single takeoff or landing.

Source: FAA

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