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Congresswoman Grace Meng

Representing the 6th District of New York

Meng, Schumer, and Gillibrand Call on FAA to Increase Transparency of Public Meetings on Nextgen

Aug 15, 2019
Press Release
NextGen is the FAA-led modernization of the nation’s air transportation system which also results in increased aircraft noise that negatively impacts local communities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) and U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sent a joint letter to the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) calling for the agency to increase transparency of public meetings held by the NextGen Advisory Committee.
 
The Committee provides the FAA with advice and recommendations on ways to enhance and maximize the Next Generation Air Transportation System, commonly referred to as NextGen, which is the FAA-led modernization of the nation’s air transportation system that seeks to improve the safety, efficiency, capacity, predictability, and resiliency of U.S. aviation. However, part of NextGen’s implementation involves new flight routes that have caused communities such as Queens to experience increased levels of aircraft noise.
 
In their correspondence to Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell, the lawmakers urged the agency to provide the public with improved notification of NextGen Advisory Committee meetings, more advanced notice of when these meetings are scheduled to take place, and to livestream each meeting.
 
“Many of my constituents who continue to be impacted by excessive aircraft noise related to NextGen want to be heard about how this new technology impacts their lives,” said Congresswoman Meng. “The public deserves to be engaged on NextGen and this engagement must be a two-way street complete with dialogue and input from members of the community and other stakeholders. Increasing access and transparency to these meetings would help ensure this happens, and that committee members listen to their concerns. There should be no barriers that prevent this from happening. It is critical for Acting Administrator Elwell to make the changes we’re requesting and I eagerly await his reply to our letter.”
 
"High levels of airplane and helicopter noise have challenged communities in the Bronx, Queens, and on Long Island for far too long," said Senator Schumer. "For the FAA to modernize air-infrastructure in a meaningful and comprehensive way, they must hear from affected community members. That is why we are demanding that the FAA increase the transparency and accessibility of public meetings held by the NextGen Advisory Committee, which is responsible for advising the FAA on air transportation modernization, including new flight routes, so those whom have suffered from excessive aircraft noise have a seat at the table and their voices can be heard."
 
"Excessive aircraft noise has been plaguing New York communities for years,” said Senator Gillibrand. “With the FAA planning to convene public meetings on NextGen implementation, which would make changes to air traffic routes and could increase the impacts of aircraft noise in some communities, I am calling on the FAA to make sure that these meetings are made more accessible and transparent for New Yorkers. The federal officials determining aircraft route changes have a responsibility to listen directly to New Yorkers to ensure that any new routes carefully consider the potential effects on their quality of life. I'm proud to join with my colleagues in this push to ensure that New Yorkers can participate in the NextGen process."
 
The text of the letter sent by Meng, Schumer, and Gillibrand is below and a copy of the correspondence can be viewed here.
 
----------------------------------------------------
 
Dan Elwell
Acting Administrator
Federal Aviation Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
 
Dear Acting Administrator Elwell:
 
We write to you regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) NextGen Advisory Committee and request that the FAA increase transparency regarding the committee’s publicly held meetings.
 
NextGen modernization of our National Airspace System impacts not only airlines, airports, and air traffic control, but the flying public and people living near airports. In this regard, the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) meetings are an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the technologies, operations, and issues regarding NextGen implementation. Unfortunately, we are concerned about the following limitations and undue barriers our constituents face in their continued engagement with NAC.

First, according to FAA internal guidelines, public notification of upcoming NextGen Advisory Committee meetings are only required to be published 15 days before a meeting. This leaves interested members of the public little time to make arrangements to attend. For example, the next meeting of the NAC will be held on July 30, 2019 in McLean, Virginia. This gives members of the public in New York State only 15 days to purchase a flight or train ticket for travel—costs for which can rise prohibitively in the days leading up to the travel day—and to book accommodations if necessary.

Second, announcements are published in the Federal Register, which can be difficult for members of the public to navigate when hunting for a specific meeting, and identical announcements are not made on the more user-friendly FAA website until several days afterwards.

Third, for those who are unable to attend in person—due to cost, time constraints, or physical inability to travel—the opportunities for public input are limited at this time, as the FAA does not videotape or livestream these meetings.

As such, we request that the FAA revise your guidelines to incorporate the following changes:
 
  1. Ensure that when announcements are made in the Federal Register of the meeting time, they are simultaneously published in a more user-friendly location, such as FAA’s website;
  2. Extend the current 15 days of advanced Notice of Public Meetings with a longer lead time; and
  3. Make the NAC meetings viewable and accessible via livestream.
 
Implementing these actions would make the public meetings more inclusive to all members of the public and increase transparency. We look forward to hearing from you on incorporating these elements.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,
 
Charles E. Schumer                  Kirsten Gillibrand                     Grace Meng      
United States Senator               United States Senator              Member of Congress

CC: Pamela Whitley, Acting Assistant Administrator for NextGen, Federal Aviation Administration