Lawyers Hired to Fight Noise at Newark International

MARCH 20, 1999

A citizen group opposed to any expansion of Newark International Airport, at least until the issue of aircraft noise is resolved, has hired a Chicago law firm to press officials to reveal expansion plans.

New Jersey Citizens Against Aircraft Noise has retained the services of Karaganis & White to help it gain access to "any and all airport-expansion proposals," according to its executive director, Pamela Barsam-Brown. The group believes the documents will strengthen its campaign to halt the rumored expansion at the airport.

"The Port Authority (of New York and New Jersey) and Continental Airlines cannot be allowed to grow the airport without first effectively resolving the aircraft-noise issue," Barsam-Brown said.

The group champions an ocean-routing alternative for flights departing Newark, rather than having jets make low-level westward turns over residential areas in Union and Middlesex counties. Several members of the New Jersey congressional delegation, as well as local governing bodies, have endorsed the group's position, which calls for live testing of ocean routing.

The Federal Aviation Administration, however, is opposed to live testing of ocean routing, saying it will take too much time and draw too many resources. "As the airspace redesign review goes forward, we will be testing various alternative routing options through computer models," FAA spokesman Jim Peters said yesterday. "Ocean routing is one alternative we will test in this way. We have not ruled it in. We have not ruled it out."

The FAA said the basic redesign should take about two years, followed by another three or four years of environmental-impact studies. The anti-noise group does not want to wait that long. It fears that while the studies and redesign are going on, the port authority, which operates the airport, and Continental Airlines, the largest carrier out of Newark, will expand the airport and create more noise. Continental has been studying expansion of its facilities at Newark within the confines of the current airport acreage, but has not made those plans public.

The port authority, according to a spokesman, has identified increased parking needs, which could mean land acquisition outside the airport perimeter, but also has made no official declaration of an intent to expand. "We will not finalize our plans until Continental has finalized its plans, which it has yet to do," said Greg Trevor, a port authority spokesman.

The anti-noise group's new attorney has sent letters to Gov. Christie Whitman, the executive director of the port authority and the FAA administrator for the Northeast Region, requesting all available documents concerning airport expansion, increases in air traffic and environmental and noise impacts. The letter says Whitman and her staff must be privy to any expansion plans.

With the governor and several staffers in South America, her press office said no official qualified to speak on the issue will be available until next week. Whitman has said she will wait until a study she commissioned on air noise in New Jersey is complete before commenting on related subjects. The study, compiled by New Jersey Institute of Technology, reportedly is almost finished.

The anti-noise group repeatedly has asked Whitman for her support, because her veto could stop any port authority projects.

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