O'HARE — City officials met Monday with Northwest Side residents angry about the constant roar of planes over their houses in the first of three meetings designed to give members of a community group — but not members of the public — a chance to tell aviation officials to put a sock in it.
Fifteen members of the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition leadership team planned to present ways to to reduce jet noise to Chicago Department of Aviation officials.
The coalition contends the noise has lowered property values and made it impossible for Northwest Side residents to watch television, sleep or enjoy their yards.
While the coalition invited the press and members of the public to attend the meeting, city officials said it was invite-only and prevented a DNAinfo Chicago reporter from covering the session by asking her to leave the building before it began.
As they left the building, members of the coalition said the meeting was positive and productive.
"They took us seriously," said Don Walsh, a member of the coalition's leadership team. "It was a very positive meeting. We have not gotten any respect, until now."
Heather Cherone discusses how one side felt the meeting went:
Representatives for the Chicago Department of Aviation did not respond to a request for comment about the meeting.
The coalition has been pressing city officials to change the flight paths that have sent hundreds of flights over parts of the Northwest Side that heard little or no jet noise before October 2013, when a new east-west runway opened.
The group's two main requests were to preserve the diagonal runways set to be decommissioned as part of the airport expansion and for an expansion of the Fly Quiet program, which encourages planes to fly over forest preserves, industrial areas and expressways to reduce noise in residential areas, said Jac Charlier, the co-founder of the coalition.
It would be impossible to expand the Fly Quiet program without keeping the diagonal runways in service, Charlier said.
"What we heard was a promise to talk about it," Charlier said. "That marks a victory."
Despite the group's request, Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not attend the meeting.
Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans attended the meeting, making this her first opportunity to hear directly from Northwest Side residents incensed by the new flight paths to and from O'Hare Airport.
The meetings were set by an agreement brokered by State Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Jefferson Park) state lawmakers after the legislature rejected a bill authored by state Sen. John Mulroe (D-Norwood Park) that would have prevented airport officials from dismantling the runway that many residents see as the last chance to spread out the air traffic — and reduce the racket over the Northwest Side.
Martwick said he was impressed by Evans' comments at the meeting, and was thrilled by its spirit of co-operation and collaboration.
The two additional meetings have yet to be scheduled, Charlier said.
Until the meetings are complete, city aviation officials have promised to hold off on dismantling the diagonal runway set to be taken out of service Aug. 20 to make way for another east-west runway scheduled to open Oct. 15.
That runway could send even more air traffic over Edison Park, Norwood Park, Jefferson Park, North Park and Sauganash, according to the coalition.
In April, 408,468 complaints were filed with city officials — an all-time record and a more than 15 percent increase from the number of jet noise complaints filed in March, according to data released by the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.
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