East Bronx still affected by low flying aircrafts

Can you hear me now?

A longstanding annoyance in the east Bronx continues to fall on deaf ears.

Local residents have complained for years that planes heading into La Guardia Airport in Queens, are flying too low to homes in the east Bronx.

Arriving flights, traveling southwest (from the north and the east) towards La Guardia, fly over the Long Island Sound, which borders Long Island, the Bronx, Westchester and Connecticut.

As the planes get closer to the airport runway, they continue to drop altitude, while crossing East River.

The noise generated during this descent affects, many neighborhoods in the east Bronx, including portions of Castle Hill, Pelham Bay, Pelham Parkway, Waterbury and Throggs Neck.

“There has always been concern about this issue – and nothing ever seems to get done to solve the problem,” said George Zulch, a Pelham Parkway resident. “The atmosphere above this section of the Bronx is a toxic dump site.”

Zulch added that he believes the number of flights at a low altitude has doubled or possibly tripled in the past decades, with a plane flying over these neighborhoods every two to three minutes during certain periods. He also said that some airplanes descend as low as 500 feet and that the situation has worsened over the past five years.

“These airplanes have gotten lower and lower over the years,” said Zulch. “If a flight experiences a malfunction, it could crash into one of these neighborhoods. This is unfortunate and shouldn’t be the case – it’s air pollution and noise pollution for this area.”

The situation has also affected Monsignor Scanlan High School, which has been forced to stop classes and meetings due to excessive jet noise over the school.

“You can’t hear – you have to stop your lesson or replay what you have already shown on a SMART Board,” said Peter Doran, Scanlan’s principal. “There are times during the day when it is quiet but there are also periods when planes are flying over us every 90 seconds. These interruptions have become problematic for teachers.”

“The pencils shake and vibrate on the desks,” said Joe Solimine, a school volunteer. “These flights interrupt classes, meetings and disrupt conversations in the school. It’s frustrating but we (Monsignor Scanlan) will not give up until we find a permanent and appropriate solution to this issue.”

Solimine added that at one time the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the Port Authority qualified Monsignor Scanlan for the Port Authority’s School Soundproofing Program in 1993.

However, after the September 11 attacks, the program documents were lost, and the school was forced to start the application process for soundproofing from scratch, according to Solimine.

When they re-applied, the FAA and Port Authority advised the school that it was located one block north of the flight soundproofing corridor.

The agencies also disqualified Scanlan for sound abatement because the minimum decibel level recorded at the school was below the program’s parameters.

According to the agencies’ study the average decibel level of airplanes flying over Monsignor Scanlan was recorded at an acceptable 55-56.

However, according to Solimine, Monsignor Scanlan did their own tests, and concluded that the decibel level was 74-75.

To qualify for the School Soundproofing Program, a school must average decibel levels of 65.

“The only reason they (the FAA and Port Authority) came up with a 55-56 decibel level is because they averaged it out over a 24-hour period,” Solimine added. “There are no planes flying over the school at midnight – they need to do a study on the decibel levels just during school hours.”

Solimine added that he recalls airplane noise being an issue for the neighborhood ever since La Guardia airport opened for business in 1939.

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.

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