Airport noise forum fails at explanation and communication

On Wednesday, June 17, 2015 The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey hosted a Public Information Workshop Open House for the John F. Kennedy International Airport Title 14 Code of the Federal Regulation Part 150 Study.

Comment area of noise forum
Comment area of noise forum

Important because Southeast Queens residents have been banging the drum of noise impact for some time with little results. This is the first time the airport, which is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is performing such a study. The purpose of the study is to determine existing and future noise conditions. The study will examine air space efficiency and “look to see the kinds of noise exposure each aircraft is making,” said Steve Alverson, who is part of the technical team carrying out the study. “What of these things are making the most noise exposure and see what we can do. What can all the airlines do to limit noise.”

The study is at the request of Governor Cuomo, who is also providing the funding, and is voluntary. If the study is effective, it could provide financial resources which could help ease the noise burden to residents adjacent to JFK.

The forum was in an open house setup with various stations each representing a specific part of the study. At each station, a representative was there to relay information about that part of the study. The general consensus at the forum was that visitors would have benefited more from a formal presentation in addition to or rather than the open house.

“I think we should have had a sit down session where we could ask questions back and forth and dialogue. Explain to people what is happening and what we are looking at,” Jackie Campbell 147th Civic Association President.

The open house forum, provided too many opportunities to skip stations either due to disinterest, a station not currently manned by a representative or, which happened most often, the representative was engaged in conversation with an individual. One had to wait for that conversation to end, and many were lengthy, causing people to skip stations and not venture back.

The other concern about the public forum was the lack of public representation. Southeast Queens has a long history of communication challenges with the Port Authority about such public events, hearings and forums. While representatives spoke about the outreach being done and encouraged participants to use ‘word of mouth’ to get the word out, it clearly was not enough.

“Up until recently there hasn’t been a lot of communication [from the Port Authority]”, said Barbara Brown, President of the Eastern Queens Alliance. She saw communication pick up when the civic group got involved with the runaway extension project, but it still seemed to be lagging. “Even the announcement for these meetings…It was a public notice. A lot of people I see here and that I know are here because I sent out the information. Because they wouldn’t have seen it,” Barbara said of the public notice that she said was sent to her from a member that appeared in the Daily News.

Airport Manager Michael Moran, was challenged on the issue of lack of communication by Communities of Color News. Manager Moran met its Managing Editor at an airport event in October 2014 and did not respond to a follow up communication sent to him from the editor. Moran apologized.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you,” he said.

Several of his colleagues at the forum were surprised to hear of Moran’s lapse in communication. Moran promised to connect with the news organization. Communities of Color News, again, contacted Moran after the forum and to-date no response has been received.

Public comment is an important part of the study, hence the open forum.

“The community’s input is key,” said Steve Alverson. Community members are asked to fill out comment forms or send an email about their experience with airport noise. “Our obligation to read that comment, consider it in some way…and then we provide a response.”

The Port Authority has set up a website, www.panynjpart150.com, with project information and an email address,nypart150@panynj.gov for a formal comments.

JFK is one of the nation’s ten busiest airports. It is one of the world’s leading international cargo center, its passenger flights are both national and international and is the largest airport of the two that reside in Queens.