Local leaders throw support to throttle FAA’s proposals|
RIDLEY PARK -- As county and state officials outlined their efforts to oppose Federal Aviation Administration plans to increase air traffic with resulting noise pollution over Delaware County communities, a few town leaders vowed to spur their residents to action. Ridley Park Mayor Hank Eberle said officials couldn’t have picked a better location than the Lakeview Elementary School with serene Ridley Lake in the background to focus on the importance of the quality of life. Eberle, who is on the board of Taylor Hospital, said, "Planes would be just flying a couple thousand feet over the hospital, windows would vibrate, doctors will be operating, patients will have a lot of noise," if the proposed flight paths are implemented to reduce flight delays. Delaware County Council in a recent letter to the FAA blasted its draft environmental impact statement, claiming noise decibel levels in some regions of the county will increase between 600 and 925 percent. Hardest hit will be Ridley Park, part of Prospect Park, two-thirds of Ridley Township and portions of Swarthmore and Nether Providence. The largest area of the county, with a population of 304,085, would be impacted with a 27 to 150 percent increase in decibel levels, according to the county Planning Department. "Ridley Park has high demand as a place for people to live and this would just shatter us," Eberle said. "I think there will be a lot of community involvement," Eberle said. "People will be worried about their way of life, the value of their homes. And generally, we’re little USA ... this represents small town USA." The mayor said he wanted to hear from everybody in the borough about the issue, including church groups, athletic clubs, "whoever they are." Tinicum Township’s Norbert Poloncarz, a longtime critic of the Philadelphia International Airport and the FAA, said, "Tinicum alone would probably not be heard, but now all the Tinicum comments along with Delaware County comments will be an important player." Poloncarz said this is the right course to take and "the planes should stay over the Delaware River" and not fly over the heart of Delaware County. County Council Chairman Andrew J. Reilly said the FAA is proposing to redesign the airspace routes in the Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York region. "The FAA’s preferred alternative would have planes leaving Philadelphia International Airport in a westerly direction, immediately banking to the right and flying over the Delaware County neighborhoods instead of staying over the Delaware River," Reilly said. He said the county’s review of the plan shows it "puts more planes over Delaware County’s airspace, right over places like this park, right over places like Lakeview Elementary School." Council found that the plan was inadequate and "wrought with deficiencies and doesn’t even comply with the federal government’s Environmental Policy Act," Reilly said. Although federal law requires it, "hardly any public discussion with any municipal or county officials was held in this process." Last week, county council filed its objections to the plan, he pointed out. It failed to address such important points as the drastic increase in noise pollution that will affect residents, the possible safety risk in aircraft disasters and the environmental impact on the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, Reilly said. The FAA didn’t address any mitigation or abatement of those noise impacts, he said. The only way that they address it is by indicating the county is in an urban area, "..s if decibel increases of up to 900 percent won’t be noticed by our residents." County council strongly believes that this plan to redirect more flights "over Delaware County communities and our neighborhoods is detrimental to the quality of life of the residents of our county - and we plan to fight it," Reilly said. The FAA needs to come up with a different solution, he said. He added that there is no evidence that the FAA’s preferred alternative will do anything for flight delays at the airport. But it will adversely affect more than 400,000 residents, he said. At county council’s July 25 meeting, it will engage the services of George Williams, a retired FAA official, to fully analyze the proposed airspace redesign project pertaining to the county and assist in any litigation that may be necessary, Reilly said. Also, the county has already retained a California law firm that specializes in aviation law and related environmental impact. The county has done and will continue to create a coalition of communities within the county in the fight against the airspace plan, Reilly said. He cited the efforts of representatives of Ridley Park, Prospect Park, Ridley Township and Tinicum and state Sen. Edwin "Ted" Erickson, R-26, of Newtown and state Rep. Tom Gannon, R-161, of Ridley Township, who attended the press conference, and elected federal officials. "I’ve heard it 10 times, I’ve heard it a 100: you’re not going to be able to fight the FAA -- we are going to be able to fight the FAA," Reilly said. "And we’re going to be in it for the long haul."