Reps. Israel, Meng and Crowley, Assemblyman Braunstein, and Senator Avella Urge FAA to Continue Environmental Reviews for LaGuardia and JFK Flights

As most congested airspace in the country, environmental reviews are necessary to study impact of flight procedure changes before making them permanent

Reps. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and Grace Meng (D-Queens) joined Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Senator Tony Avella to call on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to exempt LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airport flights from a new rule that would allow the FAA to make changes to flight procedures without conducting an environmental review to study the impact of the changes. Because New York is the most congested airspace in the country and due to the density of residential areas around Metropolitan New York’s airports, changes to flight procedures can have a significant effect on New Yorkers in the form of noise and air pollution.

Rep. Meng said, “It is outrageous that the FAA is seeking greater leeway to exempt itself from vital environmental studies which determine whether or not new airplane routes – and the accompanying noise – adversely impact affected communities. The agency’s plan to further sidestep this critical process is a slap in the face to all who live and work underneath new flight patterns, and it is imperative that the FAA abandon its intention to proceed with it. Queens must not be further impacted by additional flight patterns that the FAA may seek to impose over the borough without examining the potential noise burden they might cause.”

Rep. Israel said, “The FAA’s proposed rule, which would exempt them from studying the impact of certain flight procedure changes before making them permanent, is simply unacceptable. That’s why I’m joining with my colleagues today to call on the FAA to continue environmental reviews in New York. The FAA should be focused on reducing noise and air pollution, not making it easier to bypass vital environmental studies.”

Rep. Crowley said, “New York City’s airports are surrounded by some of the most densely populated areas in the country. There isn’t a single plane that comes or goes from our airports that doesn’t fly directly over someone’s house. Given this reality, whenever the FAA is considering changes to the way flights arrive at and depart from our airports, the agency must thoroughly study the impacts it will have on our communities, especially with respect to noise. The fact that the FAA is even considering abandoning such studies as part of its routine is appalling and, quite frankly, insulting to the residents of Queens and the Bronx, who know the flight schedules about as well as the air traffic controllers simply because they hear the rumble of each and every plane that goes by. I am glad to join my colleagues in sending this letter to Administrator Huerta and I hope our message is heard as loudly and as clearly as the aircraft flying overhead today.”

Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside) said, “I would like to thank Congressman Crowley, Congressman Israel, and Congresswoman Meng for their efforts to prevent the FAA from implementing two new categorical exemptions which would allow the agency to continue to circumvent environmental reviews in the New York City area. As we have seen in Northeast Queens, the FAA’s refusal to conduct a proper environmental review has led to a constant barrage of plane noise, and has damaged the quality of life of our constituents. I look forward to working together with Congressmembers Crowley, Israel, and Meng and Senator Avella to ensure that a full environmental review is performed in Northeast Queens.”

New York State Senator Tony Avella said, “Today I join with Reps. Israel, Meng and Crowley and Assemblyman Braunstein to call on the FAA to continue conducting environmental reviews for new flight patterns at LaGuardia and JFK. Our constituents, who are dealing with increased noise pollution, deserve to have the FAA study how new flight patterns will affect their quality of life before making them permanent.”

Janet McEneaney, President of Queens Quiet Skies, said, “Our Representatives in Congress—Joe Crowley, Steve Israel and Grace Meng—have written a letter objecting to the FAA's intended evasion of environmental review and countering with constructive suggestions to protect our health and environment in the New York City metro area. On behalf of the members of Queens Quiet Skies, I want to thank Rep. Meng, Rep. Israel and Rep. Crowley for working diligently to protect us and devoting so much of their staff time and other resources to this problem.”

In a letter to the head of the FAA, the three lawmakers called on Administrator Michael Huerta to exempt the two New York airports from plans to broaden “categorical exclusions,” a provision that allows the agency to implement new flight procedures without conducting critical environmental studies. In some cases these changes increase airplane noise overhead.

A categorical exclusion was applied to the new flight path (the TNNIS IV climb) that was instituted over Queens earlier this year. The new route has caused increased airplane noise that is negatively impacting the quality of life for many in the borough.

Federal law had required FAA officials to study the environmental effects of all new flight procedures under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), unless the FAA goes through a process to show that new procedures would not create a significant negative impact. The anticipated change in rules is expected to expand the criteria to include certain procedure changes affected by the implementation of NextGen.