Gillibrand’s office visits East Hills for information on air traffic noise

Gillibrand’s office visits East Hills for information on air traffic noise
Residents from East Hills and beyond share their concerns about air traffic over their communities to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's Long Island regional director. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

Twenty-three planes flew overheard during an hour-long meeting with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) Long Island regional director, who met with East Hills residents to discuss the issue of air traffic over the village and how the senator’s office can aid in addressing the issue.

Air traffic over villages on Long Island’s North Shore has been problem spanning more than a decade, and residents of East Hills have advocated for change in order to better their quality of life. Residents have complained about constant loud noise from air traffic and cited as concerns over health effects.

“This is not about the village of East Hills,” North Hempstead Councilman Peter Zuckerman said. “…It’s about all of Nassau County and all of this area.”

Elliot Conway, president of the Nassau County Village Officials Association and mayor of Upper Brookville, said the issue is also one in his community. He said planes fly over at times every 30-45 seconds.

“It’s despicable what they are doing to us,” Conway said. “And they could do better.”

East Hills Mayor Michael Koblenz said Michael Scheid, Gillibrand’s Long Island regional director, was briefed on the issues before the meeting but was invited to hear firsthand from residents and their concerns.

Scheid said he would be taking the residents’ information from the meeting to build a case that can be presented to the Federal Aviation Association to find a solution.

Zuckerman, who recently proposed for the town to conduct a $40,000 flight plan analysis that was unanimously OK’d by the board, said this is the first step of what Koblenz and the village officials at East Hills have been championing for years.

Koblenz said the purpose of their advocacy is to strike a compromise on the issue.

“What we’re looking for is not for no planes to ever come over this village, but we are looking for a balance,” Koblenz said. “We’re not getting a balance in our community or Manhasset and a few other places.”

Robyn Brattner, an East Hills resident of 12 years, said that air traffic noise has been an issue since she moved into the village. She said she has worked collaboratively with the village and local officials to fight for a solution to no avail.

Brattner said this was “a summer of absolute torture,” citing 35 days straight of air traffic over the village – spanning the whole month of July – for nearly 18 hours a day.

“It was a summer that we wanted to flee every single day of the month because it was that unbearable to be here,” Brattner said.

She said that it has become apparent the FAA is more concerned about increasing flight volume at “the expense” of residents.

She said air traffic over the village poses a multitude of issues, such as offensive noise, air quality and longterm health effects, and that these issues are “being put aside for the dollar.”

Brattner said their concerns have fallen “on deaf ears” because of it.

Many residents expressed frustration over the lack of action taken by their representatives, saying that despite his controversial reputation, Rep. George Santos (NY-03) has been the most responsive in acting upon their concerns.

But as Santos is facing an indictment on a slew of charges and has limited power in Congress, residents and village officials are looking toward other federal representatives for help.

“It just doesn’t seem like it’s been a priority so what’s it going to take to make it a priority?” East Hills Trustee Stacey Siegel asked.

Scheid said he would be meeting Thursday with Gillibrand’s staff member in charge of transportation policy to share with him the information sourced from Wednesday evening’s meeting at East Hills. From there, he will develop a plan to go forward.

“Now, the ball is in your court to get down there and get Congress thinking about it,” Koblenz said.

In a statement, Zuckerman said the meeting provided optimism over finding a solution for the long persisting issue.

“Our meeting with Senator Gillibrand’s office was a significant step forward in our mission to alleviate airplane noise in North Hempstead,” Zuckerman said. “It’s clear that we are not alone in recognizing the importance of this issue, and we appreciate Senator Gillibrand’s commitment to working with us on a solution that benefits our community. We remain dedicated to ensuring a safer and more peaceful environment for all our residents.”

The East Hills Board of Trustees also voted to approve a new local law that would require nitrogen-reducing septic systems for new and substantially improved structures.

Building Inspector Thomas Murphy said the main cause of high levels of nitrogen in the Long Island sound are from septic systems.

This bill keeps up with initiatives from Nassau County to encourage environmentally conscious waste systems.

The East Hills Board of Trustees will convene again at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 18.

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