State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has called on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to hire a permanent roundtable facilitator to resolve the issue of airplane noise over northeast Queens following the agency’s announcement it would have someone temporarily fill the position.
A facilitator would oversee the day-to-day operations of the roundtable, manage meetings and carry out decisions made by the group.
Avella told a news conference at his offices last Friday that a December meeting was postponed because the facilitator appointed for that meeting was deemed unacceptable on account of possible conflicts of interest.
Avella described the delay in appointing a facilitator a “stall tactic” to avoid providing the roundtable with leadership needed to create compromise on the issue of airplane noise.
“Here we are several years later. We still don’t have bylaws,” Avella said. “This person happens to be a former employee of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey... Also, he is currently a lobbyist.”
Queens Quiet Skies President Janet McEneaney was not at the conference, but delivered a written statement through the organization and Community Board 11 member Henry Euler.
“In April 2015, Queens Quiet Skies proposed to the Port Authority that they hire a consultant for 6 months to work as a roundtable facilitator to help us create a real roundtable,” McEneaney said. “We proposed someone with 25 years of experience as the roundtable facilitator at San Francisco. Since then, he has worked around the country to create roundtables in areas where groups did not get along. He was willing to take on the challenge. The Port Authority had no interest.”
Avella said on Feb. 15 he would be boycotting the roundtable meeting scheduled for that night calling it a farce without a proper facilitator in place.
“The Port Authority is attempting to cripple this Roundtable with their refusal to hire a full-time facilitator that would help the Roundtable run as efficiently as possible. I cannot support or respect any decisions that may come from this meeting as they are a clear attempt by the Port Authority to undermine the community’s wishes,” Avella said.
A Freedom of Information request made by Queens Quiet Skies to the Port Authority found in September that flight patterns of commercial jets making the climb above northeast Queens during departures from LaGuardia Airport have increased and account for about 15 percent of the all traffic to and from the international hub.
Avella and Vice President of Queens Quiet Skies Brian Will presented the findings about runway usage data for LaGuardia Airport, which Will extrapolated himself.
“Northeast Queens in 2002 had 57,000 departures over it. By 2016, we are on pace for 100,000 departures. That’s nearly a doubling of the departures over this neighborhood,” Will said, referring specifically to Jackson Heights and Woodside, which have seen a seven-fold increase in fly-overs within that period of time. “This is just staggering for me and we’re getting it straight from the Port Authority.”
The data from Port Authority points out that northeast Queens is affected by traffic from runway 13 of LaGuardia Airport. Two main departures routes, the TNNIS Climb and the Whitestone Climb, bring high levels of noise to the borough. Northeast Queens climbs accounted for just under half the departures from LaGuardia in 2014.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall
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