Village Finds Better Use For FAA Lawsuit Money

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Nearly a couples months after the Town of North Hempstead approved a measure allowing it to consider filing a suit in tandem with local villages against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to try to alleviate excessive plane noise in the area, the villages within the town remain divided on the issue.

Anton Media Group reached out to all 30 villages within the Town of North Hempstead, as well as the Village of Upper Brookville, which signed a memorandum of understanding with the town and the Village of East Hills to pursue legal action. Of the 31 villages, Upper Brookville and East Hills remain the only two who confirmed they would support a suit. Of the 12 villages that responded to requests for comment on their support, four villages—New Hyde Park, Kings Point, Great Neck Plaza and Lake Success—said definitively that they would not join the suit. Another six—Roslyn, East Williston, North Hills, Floral Park, Sands Point and Kensington—said their final decision was pending further discussion.

Another village that will not be participating in the lawsuit against the FAA is Mineola.

“Airplane noise has been a growing problem over the past 10 to 15 years as Long Island’s airports have expanded and their runways re-configured,” Mayor Scott Strauss said in a statement to the Mineola American. “In response, the Town of North Hempstead has commenced legal action against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over airplane noise and pollution from low-flying aircraft. The town has asked villages to join its action and contribute towards the cost of this litigation. A few incorporated villages within the town have opted to help share the legal costs. It is our village board’s belief that village taxpayers’ resources are better spent on village services and infrastructure, like roads and sewers, than on town-appointed lawyers. While we support the town’s efforts, Mineola will continue to hold our elected federal representatives responsible for addressing this issue.”

The Village of East Hills has agreed to contribute $40,000 to legal proceedings going forward, but mayor Michael Koblenz reiterated that East Hills would not be able to shoulder the burden of a suit alone.

Concerns have been raised in several villages about the cost of suing the FAA and how that cost would be divided amongst involved parties. One mayor of a relatively small village, speaking on the condition on anonymity, wondered if their village’s potential contribution would be weighted based on the size of its population, or if each village would be expected to kick in the same amount.

The Town of North Hempstead met with mayors of the surrounding villages to gameplan the particulars and gauge interest in filing a suit. A number of village officials privy to the meeting’s details said they were quoted a figure of $25,000 in total for the cost of a preliminary study.

This past June, members of the Nassau County Legislature, along with other town and village officials, announced tangible steps they would take to reduce excessive airplane noise. For the last few years, air traffic from John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports have constantly flown flight paths over Nassau County resident’s houses. The noise, which some days happens every 30 to 60 seconds, interrupts activities, disrupts sleep and even forces some to leave their neighborhoods.

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello, who represents Mineola, said that the legislature will be setting up a bi-partisan special committee to investigate, provide the public with greater information and seek solutions to reduce the airplane noise. The committee held its first hearing at the legislature in Mineola in June. Additionally, the legislature has submitted a resolution authorizing the county to retain a consultant to evaluate the Port Authority studies on the airplane issue and provide recommendations on behalf of the county and its residents.

California based aviation lawyer Stephen Taber, a partner in the Leech Tischman law firm, said appeals court proceedings tend to be less expensive than trial court proceedings, but the cost of just filing a petition for review to start the process of getting the FAA into appeals court can still run upwards of six figures to just under $1 million.

The city of Phoenix, AZ, and civic associations in the area won a successful suit against the FAA over plane noise concerns in early 2018, but Taber said the FAA only lost the case due to a procedural error on their part.

A more realistic course of action than trying to get the FAA into a trial court, Taber said, is to appeal a decision the administration made and send the matter to the US Court of Appeals, whereupon both sides can enter mediation and hash out a compromise.

The mayors who spoke to Anton Media Group confirmed that course of action was the one being discussed should the town and villages move forward with legal action.

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