Noisy LGA routes may actually lower life expectancy, Columbia researchers say

By Dylan Campbell

Residents of northeast Queens found out this week that the noisy planes they have complained about for years aren’t just affecting their quality of life — they’re also limiting their life expectancy, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health examined the impact of noise on health as well as the economic benefits of more efficient plane routes. They found that prolonged exposure to loud sounds could increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease and anxiety and trim a whole year off a person’s life. They published their report, which used routes out of LaGuardia Airport as a case study, on Aug. 15. 

Many of the flights out of LaGuardia — especially the Tennis Climb route over Forest Hills — depend on new automated flight systems, said the study’s lead author Dr. Peter Muenning.

“These systems generate new flight paths over populated areas. While they can improve flight efficiency, the increased noise associated with these novel flight patterns potentially pose serious health threats to nearby communities—including cardiovascular disease and anxiety disorder as consequences of noise.”

On Tuesday, Muenning appeared with State Sen.Tony Avella and Assembly Member Edward Braunstein to condemn the dangerous routes.

“This study confirms what we have believed all along, that year-round use of the Tennis Climb has a detrimental impact on the health of residents who live within its path,” Braunstein said, according to The study also shows that the economic benefits generated through the use of this new NextGen departure procedure are not as significant as we have been led to believe and do not outweigh the costs associated with the negative health effects it has created.”

The constant roar of passing planes started in 2012 when a flight path usually used a handful of times a year became a permanent route.

For years, the Tennis Climb was only used during the U.S. Open. The route takes departing planes east and north to avoid disrupting the action at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Instead, it ruptures the quiet of Bayside. 

Global position systems showed that the Tennis Climb route was actually more efficient and reduced costs and pollution, airlines began using it every day of the year — a nightmare for local residents. 

“No one who is making money has any obligation to care about what happens to the people under the flight routes,” resident Doran Chan wrote in a newsletter for Queens Quiet Skies, an organization that helped assisted with the study. “We are suffering daily so that corporations can make more money and New York City can replace revenue from offshored manufacturing industries with revenue from tourism.”

The research seems to validate her concern by concluding that the health risk outweigh any economic benefits. 

“The FAA places a very high value on lives inside airplanes, but places a low value on those inside their homes,” Dr. Muenning said according to