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Bring the Noise: Why Buying a Home in a Flight Path Could Be a Problem

Look, up in the sky…it’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s…actually…it is a plane. It’s also a pain.

That’s the bottom line of a new study by Localize.city, which looked at airplane noise in New York City in the context of neighborhoods whose real estate listings may suffer because of the high noise level. “Specifically, the site looked at areas where noise levels exceeded 55 decibels—or roughly the equivalent of a television with the sound on low, or conversational speech,” said the New York Times. “Anything higher quickly becomes intolerable: Once you get up to 65 decibels, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined, an area may not be suitable for residential use.”

The information for the report was culled from a 2017 Port Authority of New York and New Jersey noise-impact study, and Port Authority complaint data spanning 2014–2017.

“With the city’s two major airports in Queens, it should come as no surprise that airplane noise was worst in that borough,” they said. “In fact, the study found, one in 10 listings is likely to suffer from excessive noise. But it’s not as simple as proximity to an airport—the more important factor is flight paths, and which neighborhoods are beneath them. In Brookville, just north of Kennedy International Airport, 96 percent of all home listings were in a zone where noise levels topped 70 decibels—something resembling the sound of a blow dryer or vacuum cleaner.”

The negative impact of owning a home in a flight path is not a new phenomenon, nor is it relegated to NYC. But, in some affluent areas across the country, homeowners are being faced with changing flight paths that bring the noise to formerly quiet areas.

“The roar of jet engines has never been a desirable neighborhood feature, which is why homes located near major airports and under low-lying flight paths often sell for a discount,” said MSN. “But in 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration’s $35.6 billion Next Generation Air Transportation System began implementing changes to flight paths over major metropolitan areas. In some neighborhoods that are relatively far from airports and where residents say airplane noise was never a problem before, homeowners say the new flight paths are ruining their backyard birthday parties and destroying their peace of mind.”

That has led to growing outrage, and activism. Homeowners in places that are adjacent to an airport and/or directly in a known flight path might not be able to do much to better their situation, but those who have been impacted by changing paths are not sitting around with their headphones on.

“Impacted residents from wealthy communities such as Roslyn, N.Y., and Georgetown in Washington D.C., are organized, politically active and technologically savvy,” they said. “Since 2013, dozens of opposition groups have popped up, including the Scottsdale Coalition for Airplane Noise Abatement and Sky Posse Palo Alto. They are teaching neighbors how to register complaints with airport authorities and lobbying state representatives to make changes.”

The bipartisan congressional Quiet Skies Caucus was also formed in 2014 to address these issues, and lawsuits have been filed against the FAA in cities like Phoenix—resulting in a change of course (literally), with the FAA reverting “most of the flight paths over Phoenix to where they were before.”

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