June 28, 2019

As Helicopter and Airplane Noise Continue To Plague Long Island and Queens Communities, Schumer, Gillibrand Call on Nominee for FAA Administrator to Prioritize Reducing Aircraft Noise for New Yorkers before Senate Considers His Nomination

Senators’ Push Comes as FAA Recently Postponed Implementation of Two Flight Pattern Changes Intended to Reduce Air Traffic Noise over Long Island and Queens; With Increase of Summer Air Traffic, Overflight Noise Becomes Significantly Worse for Many Long Island and Queens Residents -- Despite Federal Legislation Passed Last Year to Address Community Noise Concerns

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on Steve Dickson, President Trump’s nominee to serve as the next administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to commit to addressing the problem of overhead aircraft noise in New York. New York residents, particularly in areas of Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, suffer year-round from excessive noise caused by helicopter and airplane traffic. This problem becomes markedly worse with the increase of air traffic during the summer months. Residents of the East End of Long Island have been waiting for months for the FAA to respond to public comments urging changes to the North Shore Helicopter Route. Last week, the FAA announced it will postpone the implementation of two flight pattern changes intended to reduce noise over Nassau County from flights going in and out of John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport. The FAA administrator is responsible for oversight on this issue and, in a letter to Dickson, Schumer and Gillibrand raised the concerns of Long Island and Queens residents who suffer from excessive aircraft noise over their communities. They also urged Dickson to make addressing aircraft noise a priority prior to the Senate considering his nomination. 

“Before we will consider any new nominee to head the FAA, we need to hear from the nominee about what will be done to address the high levels of airplane and helicopter noise that challenge so many communities in Long Island, Queens, the Bronx and elsewhere,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why we are demanding that the nominee for FAA Administrator commit to listening and responding with specific policy changes to the long-ignored frustrations of New Yorkers overburdened by aircraft noise.” 

“Residents of Long Island and Queens have long suffered through unacceptable levels of helicopter and airplane noise, and this problem gets markedly worse during the summer. Even though last year’s FAA Reauthorization bill included my provisions to address this noise pollution, the FAA has yet to follow through and take any substantive actions to actually reduce aircraft noise,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Before the Senate votes on the next FAA Administrator, I am calling on the nominee to show leadership on this issue and fully commit to addressing the concerns of New Yorkers. Excessive airplane and helicopter noise harm the quality of life in our communities, and it’s past time the FAA gives our communities the relief they deserve.”

Last year’s FAA Reauthorization bill included a provision the senators fought for that required the FAA to hold public hearings to directly hear the concerns of Long Island residents. The provision also required the FAA to review the North Shore helicopter route, which is responsible for the majority of overhead noise for North Fork residents. The senators support a mandatory all-water helicopter route around Orient Point and Shelter Island, and the creation of a route over the Atlantic Ocean on the South Shore, to alleviate the public nuisance caused by helicopters flying over residential areas.

In their letter to Dickson, Schumer and Gillibrand explained that the FAA public meeting did not fully address residents’ concerns, and that the FAA has not yet produced a timeline to complete the review of the North Shore helicopter route. Furthermore, the senators noted that the FAA has not yet completed reviewing the 345 public comments on the review of the North Shore helicopter route, even though the public comment period closed over six months ago.

To ensure his commitment to reducing helicopter noise, Schumer and Gillibrand are calling on Dickson to commit to the following:

  • Finalizing the review of public comments on the North Shore route that is mandated by law.
  • Enforcing an all-water route around Orient Point and Shelter Island.
  • Creating a route over the Atlantic Ocean on the South Shore for aircraft flying to and from the East End.
  • Improving communication between the FAA and noise-affected communities.
  • Seeking community input on noise impacts and abatement needs and incorporating concerns into FAA planning.
  • Prioritizing FAA resources towards noise mitigation projects.

The senators demanded answers to their concerns before the Senate considers his nomination.

The full text of the senators’ letter can be found here and below:

June 28, 2019

Dear Mr. Dickson,

As the Senate considers your nomination to be the next administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), we seek answers regarding your opinion on the challenge of regulating helicopter and airplane noise. We want to share with you the concerns of New Yorkers about the acute problem of excessive helicopter and airplane noise over their communities, and, to that end, we respectfully request answers to a number of questions prior to your confirmation vote. Should the Senate confirm you, we strongly urge you to make addressing aircraft noise a priority.

Communities on the East End of Long Island and in Queens have continuously suffered from the noise of helicopter overflights; these overflights become unbearable for residents during the summer months when air traffic increases exponentially. The East End communities are not the only communities in New York with significant aircraft noise concerns. Our constituents in Queens and Nassau County also continue to experience excessive noise from aircraft overflights. For years, the FAA has failed to adequately address the concerns raised by these communities and provide for real noise mitigation that improves their quality of life. We have repeatedly heard complaints from community groups that the FAA feels inaccessible to them.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which we supported, required the FAA to review the North Shore helicopter route and hold a public hearing for the FAA to hear directly from our constituents; however, the residents of the East End do not feel their opinions have been adequately heard after the FAA’s event in Riverhead. It has been more than six months since the public comment period closed on the review of the North Shore helicopter route, and it is our understanding that the FAA is still reviewing the 345 comments it received and does not yet have a timeline established for when the review will be complete and further action will be taken. It is not acceptable that our constituents will be going through yet another summer season without a resolution, including the implementation of an all-water route around Orient Point on the North Shore and a South Shore route over the Atlantic for aircraft bound for the East End of Long Island, to reduce helicopter noise over their homes.

  1. Will you commit to quickly finalizing the review of public comments?
  1. Will you work with our offices and the relevant stakeholders to develop and enforce an all-water route around Orient Point and Shelter Island on the North Shore, and the creation of a route over the Atlantic Ocean on the South Shore, for aircraft travelling to and from the East End?
  1. Will you direct the FAA’s Eastern Region to ensure that they are communicating regularly with community groups?
  1. What steps will you take to ensure that community noise concerns are fully incorporated into the FAA’s planning, enforcement, and decision-making on aircraft operations and flight patterns over populated areas?
  1. Will you prioritize providing adequate resources to FAA noise mitigation programs, studies, and projects?

New Yorkers deserve a responsive FAA that works for them and is not held captive by the industries it regulates. To that end, ensuring your commitment to the wellbeing of our constituents, whose quality of life has been impacted for too long by excessive aircraft noise, is extremely important to us. We request that you will provide us with thorough answers to each of these questions without delay. Should you wish to follow-up or discuss this letter in further detail, you may contact our staff.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator