Port Authority officials are responding to Nassau County community complaints about aircraft noise from Kennedy Airport by revising a runway expansion plan, but residents fear the project could still increase air traffic and jet roar over their homes.
The agency's original plan called for the threshold -- the touchdown point -- on runway 4L/22R to be moved north by 3,316 feet. Residents had complained that the proposed change, including the removal of 800 trees in Idlewild Park, would have significantly increased noise in residential areas north of the Queens airport.
Instead, the Port Authority will leave the threshold where it is and not cut down any trees. The agency detailed the revision at a Monday night meeting hosted by the Town-Village Aircraft Safety Noise Abatement Committee and state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) in Floral Park.
The runway will still be extended, by 728 feet, to meet new federal requirements for a "runway safety area."
Brian Simon, the Port Authority's director of governmental and community relations, said the trees and fences around the airport would serve as a noise buffer.
"We believe the impact [of the runway extension] would be cushioned to the surrounding community," Simon said.
The original plan to move the threshold north would have required planes to fly 200 feet lower over Nassau County communities to land.
Georgine Hartenfels, of Floral Park, said at the meeting that eight planes flew low over her house in a five-minute period on Monday. "They are getting lower and lower all the time, to the point that I sit in my living room and I can see the landing gear coming down," she said.
Kennedy Airport uses eight approaches on four runways. If 22R cannot be used -- during construction or for other reasons -- flights would be diverted to other runways, including 22L, which parallels 22R and is predominantly used for landings.
Arrivals on 22L, a source of noise complaints, have increased in recent years, records show. The flight path for 22L brings planes over Nassau communities including Floral Park, Elmont and Garden City.
"I have greater concern now because from my perspective there are a lot of unanswered questions about what runways will feel the impact when they close for construction, and when 22R is back in rotation, what it ultimately means for the existing configuration," said Floral Park Village trustee Mary-Grace Tomecki, a member of the noise abatement group. "Based on that, I don't know if it is a better proposal."
James Steven, the airport physical plant and redevelopment manager, said arrivals on 22R would not increase, but there could be additional use of runway 22L for landings.
Many of the 200 people attending the meeting remained concerned about increased noise from the runway extension, even if the threshold is not changing.
"Planes are going to be there for takeoff 728 feet closer to residents on the north side of the runway and they [planes] will be sitting there," said Roger Kuehnlenz, 65, a 34-year resident of Floral Park. "It is noisier taking off than landing."
The new plan also would widen the runway from 150 feet to 200 feet and use concrete instead of asphalt. Construction would take place from next spring until the fall of 2015, Port Authority officials reported.
The 30-day comment period on the environmental assessment of the plan ends Nov. 18. Comments can be sent to JFKRWYEA@panynj.gov with the subject heading "JFK RWY 4L-22R. EA COMMENT" or by mail to Port Authority of NY & NJ, 225 Park Ave. South, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10003.