From the Desk of Jack Martins: Back to the drawing board on airplane noise

From the Desk of Jack Martins: Back to the drawing board on airplane noise
New York State District 7 Sen. Jack Martins. (Photo courtesy of the Office of state Sen. Jack Martins)

My friend and I speak on the phone several times a week. But he has a pretty hectic work and home life, so he tends to call me when he’s out walking his dog.

Besides calls at odd hours and his being hard of hearing (he refuses to get a hearing aid) we’ve noted that our conversations are growing more tedious lately because of airplane noise.

Unfortunately, it seems there are frequent breaks in our discussion to allow for low-flying planes that are roaring above. While I recall this happening from time to time in the past, lately it seems nearly impossible to have a complete discussion, so we typically just agree to talk later.

Clearly, this is not a data-driven observation, just my own anecdotal experience, but I also hear from dozens of constituents a week who have similar complaints.

We live by two of the nation’s busiest airports, so this is nothing new to anyone reading this.

For my part, I’ve dealt with this issue for more than 20 years, first as a mayor of Mineola who attended Town-Village Aircraft Safety & Noise Abatement Committee meetings. And in subsequent years as your state senator, there has been no other, single topic that has been a more persistent nuisance to our communities.

Plainly speaking, I’ve written more letters to the FAA, met with more Port Authority officials, held more public hearings, and demanded more studies than I can even remember. I even sponsored legislation in Albany and yet here we are. The noise remains and, in fact, seems to be getting worse.

At the heart of the matter is an imbalanced distribution of air traffic, with a disproportionate number of landing flight paths directly over our neighborhoods.

To maintain these approaches, pilots are compelled to fly at lower altitudes and increase engine thrusting, consequently amplifying noise levels. This leaves an indisputable negative impact on the general well-being and health of our communities.

Knowing this, you would think improvements could be made easily enough, but changes are subject to a complex web of relationships between the federal government’s Federal Aviation Administration, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and numerous airlines. So, the key to getting anything done will rest in us obtaining an objective analysis of the noise impact at ground level.

To that end, the state Legislature passed a law requiring the Department of Health to conduct such a study and report it by March 31, 2024 – just two weeks ago.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, no such study was presented and when we pressed for it, we were told that they’re still working on it. Of course, I’ll be staying on this and reporting any progress back to you.

I know that summer is approaching and many of us hope to spend more time outdoors. To keep the pressure on, I recently hosted another airplane noise work session, this time with Michael Koblenz, the mayor of East Hills.

He might be the only living Long Island official to get more noise complaints than me and yet he hasn’t given up the fight. While the meeting was open to all we were encouraged to see nearly 40 public officials there who agreed that urgent action was needed.  But I won’t sugarcoat it.

At times I feel like an exasperated Wile E. Coyote, going back to his drawing board to hatch another plan to catch the road runner. But like Wile E., I don’t give up easy.  So, stay tuned. We have more sessions in the works with new ideas and new neighbors who are ready to lead the charge.


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