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Jackson Heights Tops List of Airport Noise Complaints

By Katie Honan | August 20, 2015 8:00am
 The data tracks airplane noise at area airports. Pictured, a plane landing at LaGuardia Airport.
The data tracks airplane noise at area airports. Pictured, a plane landing at LaGuardia Airport.
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JACKSON HEIGHTS — When it comes to airplane noise, this neighborhood rises above the rest. 

Neighbors in Jackson Heights topped the list of air traffic complaints, logging thousands of calls with the Port Authority about planes taking off and landing at LaGuardia Airport between Jan 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, according to data.

While the Port Authority wouldn't provide the number of phone calls made by neighborhood, data released by the agency showed Jackson Heights consistently landed at the top of the list for the most households that made complaints.

More than 1,290 households in Jackson Heights filed complaints about plane noise in 2014 and through June of 2015 — more than any other neighborhood in New York or New Jersey, according to the data. 

People can make repeat complaints, but a household is only counted once, according to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which operates the airports.

The most complaints in a single month came in May, when 305 local households called about noisy airplanes out of LGA, contributing to 2,750 individual complaints. Jackson Heights homeowners logged more than half of the complaints for that month. 

In June, 3,853 complaints about LaGuardia were logged, originating from 231 households. More than 100 of those homes were located inside Jackson Heights.

Port Authority officials pointed out that the majority of complaints come from a small minority of homes. 

In May, 48 percent of the calls were from only 10 households. In June, 60 percent of the calls came from 10 homes, Port Authority officials said.

While Bayside, Flushing and Valley Stream have topped some months with complaints, Jackson Heights callers have been at the top the most. 

Between January 2014 and June 2015, they logged the most calls 10 out of the 16 months. 

Although the airport is located in East Elmhurst, residents there don't complain as much about the noise — with just 26 households calling in complaints this year.

Activist Susan Carroll, who lives in Flushing, encourages those living with the noise — which includes neighborhoods further out on Long Island in recent years due to new plane routes — to call to complain.

It's just one small part of the comprehensive look at the impact local airports have on residents.

"I don't think it's the end game, and I don't think it could be the only way," Carroll said. 

She said her neighborhood, for example, doesn't log as many complaints as Jackson Heights. But it's an equally impacted neighborhood, she said.

"There's barriers, for many reasons people don't complain," she said. "It's a new immigrant community ... it doesn't mean that people don't care."

The Port Authority, for its part, has installed noise monitors to help  gather information for upcoming Noise Exposure Maps for JFK and LaGuardia airports, which are expected to be published in 2016 and 2021. 

They also held public workshops regarding the study, the national Part 150 Noise Study. 

And with the planned expansion of LaGuardia Airport, Carroll said community involvement is needed now more than ever. 

"There should be more outreach, people need to spend more time in these neighborhoods impacted," she said.

"All this money [is] spent on monitoring noise but I think, just step outside."