Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Federal Aviation Administration refuses to delay launch of new Teterboro flight path

Representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday rejected repeated requests from local officials to delay Monday’s launch of a new flight path into Teterboro Airport, and instead offered assurances that the change will have a limited impact.

The officials, from towns including Ho-Ho-Kus, Mahwah, Paramus, Ramsey, Ridgewood, and Rochelle Park, attended a meeting convened by the FAA at the airport to explain the changes. In addition to requesting the delay, they protested that they were not given sufficient warning — or input — into the new flight path, which will begin a six-month test run on Monday.

Federal officials say moving the flight path — sending jet traffic instead to the west along a corridor that roughly follows Route 17 from Mahwah to Rochelle Park — will reduce noise around Hackensack University Medical Center.

But The Record reported Wednesday that maps published by a navigational aid company ahead of the trial show that it could take jets over a half dozen schools and The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood.

Officials asked if the government could delay the test, even for just a couple of months, so that communities would have more time to study and respond to the route.

But FAA officials at the meeting demurred, saying they did not even know who could make the decision to delay the test.

Instead, they suggested that people concerned about the flight path should contact the FAA by writing to an email address — — during the test period.

Hours after the meeting, an FAA spokeswoman, Arlene Salac, clarified: “There are no plans at this time to delay the test.”

Not everyone at the meeting opposed the new flight path. Albert Dib, a legal analyst who works for Hackensack, said his city had “endured” the current route for decades.

Dib said it was time for other people in Bergen County to share the noise burden from an airport that makes a significant economic contribution to the region. Teterboro is a reliever airport that services smaller aircraft — mainly corporate jets — that would otherwise clog up the region’s three commercial airports.

“I have listened to our colleagues from the north and they have well-founded concerns,” Dib said. “But this is a time for equity and time we all stood up and accepted … having this burden on our region.”

The exchanges came following a brief presentation by Gary Palm, the air traffic control manager at Teterboro Airport, in which he sought to allay concerns about the revised flight path.

Teterboro has two runways. Palm explained that the test route only applies to aircraft landing on the north-south runway and that it will only be used when weather conditions are clear — mostly in the late spring and through the summer. The field’s other runway directs traffic over Bogota and Teaneck to the northeast and Carlstadt to the southwest.

Palm, an FAA employee, said the new test route would affect a “very small percentage” of flights, estimating that it could average 20 to 25 “approaches” per day, with some days more heavily trafficked than others. He added that since many aircraft using the north-south runway already fly over the same general area as they would under the new approach, the FAA anticipates “little to no change in the noise profile.”

That did little to quiet local representatives who peppered Palm and his colleague Dana Rose-Kelly, an assistant air traffic district manager, with questions and concerns for more than one hour.

Chief among their worries was that none of the towns newly-affected by the test route were represented on the advisory committee that was instrumental in securing it. The Teterboro Aircraft Noise Abatement Advisory Committee comprised FAA and airport officials as well as representatives of towns affected by the current flight path.

The officials wanted to know why information about the new route had been disseminated to representatives of their towns only at the last minute.

Jovan Mehandzic, an assistant engineer from Ridgewood, asked if the FAA had any data on estimated noise levels for the newly affected communities. The FAA’s Palm said no, the study would return those results.

Vanessa Jachzel, a councilwoman from Ramsey, pushed back on the assertion that the new flight path would not have much adverse impact. “If that is the case, why do it at all?” Jachzel asked.

Noting the number of schools beneath the new flight path, state Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) asked if the test could be delayed a few months to limit the impact on students. Schepisi said the delay would also ease the appearance that the FAA is “sneaking something in in the dead of night.”

The FAA says that it is implementing the flight path at the request of the advisory committee. The committee’s chief concern is noise and safety for residents of a string of high-rise apartments in Hackensack as well as for workers and patients at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Ron Jones, a former director of security at HackensackUMC, who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, said safety and noise had been an issue at the hospital for more than a decade.

Jones, a former mayor of Hasbrouck Heights who has been involved with the advisory committee, said planes frequently descend very close to the hospital, which sits less than two miles from the end of the runway. He said that there have been longstanding concerns about the potential for a jet to crash into the hospital. He added that the federal and airport officials had been very helpful in getting the flight path changed.

Joseph D’Arco, the borough administrator for Paramus, asked why, if the flight path was being changed for HackensackUMC, The Valley Hospital had not been consulted.

“If, in fact, [the flight path] was that dramatic for [Hackensack] and their residents, then what are you doing to a number of towns?” D’Arco asked.

A spokeswoman for The Valley Hospital, Maureen Curran Kleinman, said in a statement: “We are disappointed that Valley was neither notified of, nor afforded the opportunity to give input on the proposed change in flight path, and we are concerned about how the new flight plan will affect the comfort and safety of our patients.”

She added: “A more inclusive process and a greater effort to communicate with stakeholders should have been undertaken to ensure that both Hackensack and Valley, as well as the county’s three other acute-care hospitals, can ensure peaceful healing environments for their patients.”

Outside Ho-Ho-Kus Elementary School, parents said they were concerned about the new route. Lauren Einhorn, who has a daughter in the school and another daughter entering kindergarten next year, said she hears enough planes overhead already.

“It’s ridiculous,” Einhorn said. “I hear planes loudly enough that it shakes my cabinets. They fly really low, it’s very, very loud.”

Bergen County Freeholder Maura DeNicola said she is “deeply concerned” about the flight-path change. “Since the FAA imposed new flight path rules on the three major metropolitan airports several years ago, I have received numerous complaints about low-flying commercial airliners flying over people’s homes at all hours of the day and night.

“The FAA … did not take into account the noise and pollution problems caused by rerouting airplanes over populated areas in North Jersey – and I am afraid they are not concerned about the negative impacts from Teterboro, which has been a long-term issue for many residents in Bergen County.”

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