Northeast Queens residents peppered the Federal Aviation Administration with questions on airplane noise resulting from a new flight route at LaGuardia Airport during a meeting held Thursday night in Bay Terrace.
More than 100 people packed into the standing room-only meeting hosted by state Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside, and state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, D-Bayside, at the Bay Terrace Jewish Center.
"We're not going to let this destroy our quality of life," Avella said. "We've said publicly that if the route doesn't go back to the old way, the FAA is in for the fight of its life."
Braunstein said he has been "frustrated" because he lives in the flight path's route.
"This summer, I was being woken up every minute starting at 6 a.m.," he said. "It's not fair that our property values should go down and we are being forced out of our backyards so the airport industry can make more money."
Northeast Queens residents began complaining about the noise early last summer, saying that planes were flying over their neighborhood virtually every minute of the morning and afternoon.
Carmine Gallo, regional administrator for the FAA's eastern region, told attendees at last night's meeting that LaGuardia has several flight paths, including the "tennis climb," which sends planes over Bayside and was named due to its proximity to Flushing Meadows Corona Park's stadium.
"It's probably the most complex piece of airspace in the world," said Ralph Tamburro, an FAA traffic management officer, of the three regional airports. "The reason we do the tennis climb is that we have the minimal separation required between these aircrafts. We have to maintain three miles separation."
Other climbs out of LaGuardia include the Nathan's climb toward Coney Island and another that heads in the direction of Maspeth.
"These have been in existence for approximately 40 years," Tamburro said. "The ultimate goal is to use two of these climbs on a normal basis."
The FAA's officials told attendees at the meeting that the reason they heard so much noise last summer was because the agency was collecting data by sending off more flights than usual from LaGuardia's Runway 13.
Avella asked the officials why more flights did not head over the water or Flushing Meadows Corona Park, rather than flying over residential neighborhoods.
"With the amount of aircraft in this airspace, it's impossible for them to all go over the water," Tamburro answered.
The FAA officials said they carried out an environmental impact study on the flight route in 2007, but neither Avella and Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece said they had been notified about it.
Resident Nancy Liu asked whether the flight route was still in the test phase or had been permanently implemented.
"Are you going to add more flights in the future?" she asked. "If so, I want to move away from this area."
But Gallo responded that the capacity of LaGuardia's flights is a fixed number.
"The number of flights using the tennis climb is going to be way less than what you experienced during the test period," he said.
Braunstein asked whether there would still be planes passing overhead every minute at specific times of the day. Gallo answered "yes," eliciting a few gasps from the audience.
Officials from the agency told audience members that they had conducted tests on the noise level at the airport and that it had met the 65 decibel level that is considered acceptable by the FAA.
But Avella said that level is an average and that, on any given day, the noise could be up to 80 or 100 decibels.
"It's not acceptable to us," he said.
And Janet McEneaney, a CB 11 member and founder of Queens Quiet Skies, said that LaGuardia has very few noise meters on the ground.
"It's my understanding on the runways in San Francisco, there are 33 noise meters and, in Chicago, there are 30," she said. "At Kennedy, there are 18 and, at LaGuardia, there are four."
Several residents pressed the FAA for the creation of a roundtable through which they could voice their complaints and cited several cities, such as Chicago and San Francisco, where the FAA had set up such groups.
"I live in Douglaston and have been there about a year and a half," said Robert Whitehair, a pilot and former airport manager. "I sat on a community roundtable in the 1980s dealing with complaints before these routes were put into place, not after. Why has the FAA not reached out to the community? The people here weren't notified."
Gallo said the FAA would agree to a roundtable for northeast Queens.