SUMMIT, NJ — John Nicholas reminded residents that it’s not just a coincidence that skies are quiet over Hilltop City.
The Summit resident serves as vice president of the Union County Air Traffic Noise Advisory Board and spoke at the Feb. 5 Common Council meeting about the organization, which advocates for reducing noise levels in the county.
“The metropolitan air space that we live in is among the busiest in the world and the board was really set up to help stay on top of any changes, particularly regarding Newark Airport,” Nicholas told the board.
He referred to the board as the “watchdog organization for noise,” first implemented more than 30 years ago. Nicholas has been involved for 15 years.
“I just have to come back to Summit taking for granted that there is no noise,” he said at the meeting. “We live in the most congested airspace in the country.”
Nicholas’ assessment of noise contrasts with Cranford, which sits 6 miles from Newark Airport and whose Municipal Council adopted a resolution last November “expressing opposition” to the “increase of low-flying aircraft in the community since May 2018.”
A copy of that resolution was sent to U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, and U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker. A copy also was sent to the local field office of the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the Port Authority of New York and the New Jersey Noise Office.
Newark Liberty International Airport, the 17th largest airport in North America, is a little more than 10 miles from Summit and, according to Nicholas, the FAA has made attempts to redesign the airspace in the metropolitan area.
Nicholas recalled an event in the 1990s, when the FAA tried to introduce a Metroplex at Newark Airport and the advisory board was instrumental in fighting against the initiative.
For a Metroplex program, the FAA “collaborates with aviation stakeholders to improve regional traffic movement by optimizing airspace and procedures based on precise satellite-based navigation,” according to its website.
“There are virtual highways above us where planes fly and a lot of them are set procedures that everyone uses,” Nicholas said at the meeting. “The Metroplex concept actually allowed planes to fly by GPS setting and they were routing the planes in such a way that was very adverse, from a noise standpoint.”
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey estimates that there will be 457,000 flight operations in 2019 in the metro area, according to Nicholas. About 340,000 of those flights are domestic, 75,000 are international and 25,000 are cargo-related.
Nicholas also said the FAA has been conducting a Part 150 Airport Noise Compatibility Study for the past two years.
The Union County Air Traffic Noise Advisory Board, along with other organizations in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, was instrumental in bringing the study to Union County.
In 2014, the Port Authority embarked on its first-ever Part 150 study through the FAA for John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, and began another study for Newark and Teterboro airports in 2017.
With the latter study, Newark Airport operators will be provided with a formal process for addressing airport noise and noncompatible land uses as a “noise exposure map report” and “noise compatibility program” are developed.
“Noncompatible land use” means the sound exposure is not compatible with the outdoor noise environment because the day-night average sound level is greater than levels identified in the Part 150 study.
These levels vary based on land use; for example, the threshold for residential land use is DNL 65, but for commercial land use the threshold is DNL 70.
There are 14,500 people living in the metropolitan area where the DNL is more than 65, according to Nicholas.
Summit Common Council members Mike McTernan and Beth Little expressed their appreciation for the county’s advisory board at the end of Nicholas’ presentation.
“If there weren’t so many people working hard to make sure that the noise stays at a reasonable level, it would be something that we would all notice and that we would all be concerned about,” Little said.
McTernan said Summit’s close proximity to a major transportation hub is a plus and that, thanks to the advisory board, it’s not detrimental to the city.
“We are that close to a major transportation hub with very little of the downside, thanks to the hard work of the advisory board,” he said.