EDGEBROOK — Susan Schneider moved to Edgebrook 12 years ago in search of a peaceful alternative to the ruckus of Lakeview.
Little did she know that her new neighborhood would turn out to be just as noisy, if not worse. This time, rather than late-night revelers, her everyday life is being disrupted by planes flying overhead every few minutes at almost all hours of the day, a result of the O'Hare Modernization Project that took effect last October.
The project increased air traffic on the Northwest Side and northwestern suburbs. Specifically, it means 85 percent of O'Hare arrivals and departures between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. will fly over homes in Sauganash, Forest Glen, Edgebrook and North Park.
Now, Schneider is looking to sell her Edgebrook home at the end of the year, and she's worried about her property value.
"I'm greatly concerned that if anybody comes during this onslaught, I'm going to have some issues selling my home," she said.
Schneider was one of more than 100 community members who voiced concerns about the noisy planes Saturday as an advocacy group moved through the neighborhood to distribute thousands of door hangers urging people to appeal their property taxes.
The self-funded community organization, Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition, has been fighting to keep the volume down since the project started. The group began with seven members about 15 months ago, and now has about 200, organizers said.
Jac Charlier, a member of FAiR's leadership team, came ready to pass out 30,000 door hangers, and has 20,000 on top of that to distribute the rest of the summer. This amount, he said, is three times as many as the coalition printed last summer.
In addition to door hangers, coalition member Susie D'Alessandro came to the event with yard signs and asked for $5 donations for each sign. All of the yard signs had sold by the time the meeting ended.
Not unlike Schneider, former English teacher Colleen Mulcrone, 40, moved to the neighborhood with her husband and two small children because it had a lot to offer.
The most appealing part of living in Jefferson Park, Mulcrone said, is being within walking distance of neighborhood parks like Wilson Park and Portage Park as well as their childrens' school, the grocery store and the public library, among other places.
When the planes began flying overhead with greater frequency beginning last October, Mulcrone said her family was "devastated"; she felt "robbed" and cried every night for two weeks, she said.
"Now there’s no place we can go where I can escape the planes," Mulcrone said. "If I go shopping at Target, there are planes there. If I take my kids to swimming, there are planes there. On the Northwest Side of Chicago, there is no escaping them."
Mulcrone said she's grateful that her major home renovations fell through due to permit delays because she was able to use a "big chunk of that money" towards soundproofing her daughter's room and installing new drywall.
While soundproofing helps reduce noise, it does not eliminate it.
"You still have ambient noise all of the time in the background," Mulcrone said.
At this point she said there are a few options for her and her family: She can either "choose to be a prisoner" in her own home, fight for change or move.
She said her husband is already ready to "walk away" from their home, but she is continuing to fight.
"The mayor and [U.S. Transportation Secretary] Ray Lahood and anyone else who is saying this is a great project for Chicago say it’s going to create all of these jobs and all of this revenue," she said. "At what cost?"
The coalition has requested to meet with Mayor Rahm Emanuel seven times to discuss this issue, and Charlier said all of their requests have been ignored. Recently, Emanuel made his first comment on the issue when he wrote a letter to aviation officals asking them to expedite a study to allow the sound-proofing of more homes, among other things.
Other officials, including Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th), Ald. Mary O’Connor (41st) and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), have called for new hearings about the jet noise. Last month, O'Connor said the expansion project should be put on hold until more hearings can be held.
Federal aviation officials said the flight patterns at O'Hare are designed to ensure the airport operates as efficiently and as safely as possible.
FAA spokesman Anthony Molinaro said that federal and local officials held several meetings on the Far Northwest Side last year before the new runway opened.
Chicago Aviation Department spokeswoman Karen Pride said her agency "supports holding a public hearing and has been working with the aldermen and congressmen to schedule a date for the hearing that works for all parties involved."
Kate McClure, who has lived in Sauganash for 52 years, said moving is not an option. She loves the neighborhood, she said, and is optimistic that the group will force change.
But the planes, she said, fly so low that "you can see people eating their meals in the little windows."
Patrick Loftus, 58, of Sauganash, and John Ceisel, 54, of North Park, agreed that the constant noise is "completely unacceptable." They both have been living in these neighborhoods since the late 1980s.
Ceisel said that not only do the planes disrupt his sleeping patterns, but it also affects "whether this is a neighborhood people want to live in."
"The city is struggling from an education perspective," said Ceisel, who is a retired corporate educator. "This is one more reason for me to the move to the suburbs."
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