Activists and more than 30 civic groups wrote letters calling for Schumer’s support to help mitigate the recent impacts of new routes out of the airports that allow planes to fly lower over residential neighborhoods with greater frequency.
Bayside resident Peter Rutledge has worked with dozens of local activist groups in the city and New Jersey toward raising awareness about the effects from the FAA’s implementation of the NextGen system, as it is known.
The new routes were part of the FAA Modernazation and Reform Act of 2012, a bill that gave the FAA broad leeway to implement new takeoff and landing routes with little to no environmental review through a process known as a categorical exclusion.
Schumer was one of the few elected officials in New York to vote for the bill, and community groups say he has been largely silent on the issue since it began to affect his constituents in 2012.
“Senator Schumer, who has a lot of influence in the Senate, basically steered the legislation through the Senate that enabled the FAA to get a categorical exclusion,” Rutledge said, carrying a petition for the senator with about 1,800 signatures in opposition.
Rutledge said he remembered when the planes first started flying low over his home a little over two years ago.
“I was asleep in my bedroom in Bayside and I heard this blast at six in the morning and I thought it must be some problem,” he recalled. “Then boom, boom, boom; every day for weeks on end they were coming in really low. You could practically see the pilots in the cabins.”
He’s since had a heart attack, which he was told by physicians could potentially have been a direct result to stress developed from the low-flying planes.
“(Low-flying planes) can cause a heart attack or a stroke, and it has been linked to autism, its been linked to asthma,” he said. “So there are public health issues here.”
Susan Carroll had no technical background and knew nothing about airplanes before she started noticing low-flying planes passing over her home.
“Especially during the summertime, it’s the absolute worst,” she said. “I’m technically outside of the area they say is most severely impacted, and yet every single plane is going in my vicinity.”
Today she is a member of Queens Quiet Skies, a local group fighting the changes, and a member of the LaGuardia Aviation Roundtable.
“We want to see Schumer put pressure on the FAA to go back and do proper environmental impact statements on these harmful patterns,” Carroll said.
While she said the senator has agreed to meet with the group, there has yet to be any official talks or a date for the meeting.
Dorothy Woo has lived near Kissena Park in Flushing for the last 15 years and recalls intolerable noise from low-flying planes used to only be a nuisance during the U.S. Open, when the flights were diverted around the stadium.
“During the mid-90s (the noise) became more,” Woo said.
Woo says the planes now pass over her home every 90 seconds.
In response, she has installed triple pane windows and is now equipped with a noise monitor of her own, which she says regularly reaches between 70 and 80 decibels when the planes pass overhead.
“This is really unbearable,” she said. “It is annoying to live in those kind of conditions. You cannot concentrate, so the only way is you just close down.”
Woo said her greatest fear is that the FAA is taking advantage of the immigrant populations that make up the sprawling communities surrounding the airports in Queens.
“I never want to stir up the race issue, but for this one, I think we are really mistreated,” she said.
While the 2012 legislation saw very little to no support from Democrats when it was passed, Rutledge suspects Schumer stepped across the isle for “fundraising reasons.”
“The airlines are huge,” Rutledge said. “It’s not just the airlines or the manufacturers, but all the equipment and the people that are involved in it.”
Although activist groups have long-term proposals to deal with noise from the city's airports, Rutledge said in the short term they just want a reevaluation of the original bill and the consideration of its impact on the environment.
“(Schumer) can ask them to go back, and to revert to the old system and do the environmental studies by the EPA, not by the FAA, and say 'is this really a problem?'” sasid Rutledge. “They put those airports – Kennedy and LaGuardia - on the ocean for a reason. They wanted to keep the flights from disturbing the community.”