A Coalition of Boston Community groups opposed to the heading of Logan Airport traffic over heavily populated neighborhoods met at Boston City Hall for the first time two Sundays ago.
The meeting came almost one month after Cambridge residents began noticing an increase in the level of airplane noise over the city.
The meeting represented the first effort by Boston-area communities to fight the airplane noise problem together. "We've been out-muscled politically along every step of the way, so it's time it became a city-wide issue so we can face it in a united way," Boston City Councilor Raymond L. Flynn said at the meeting.
Several highly-placed Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) officials said yesterday that the coalition's first meeting "strongly influenced" Gov. Edward J. King's decision last Monday to withdraw his support of five bills calling for reorganization of Massport. The bills would have given King power over most of the reorganization.
Melba Hamilton, president of the South Boston Residents' Group, said the coalition opposes the reorganization because it believes a new Massport would implement plans for longer runways, compounding the noise problems Boston residents already face.
At the coalition meeting, Hamilton and other community representatives supported heading air traffic directly over the ocean. "There's 5000 miles of water out there, and no one to bother," David Raftery, one of the representatives of the Quincy area, said yesterday.
Richard F. Marchi, assistant to the director of aviation at Massport, said yesterday the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering four possible headings for Logan air traffic. The 210 degree route, currently in use, carries planes over South Boston and affects the greatest number of people, he added.
To explore alternatives to the 210 degree heading, the FAA implemented a 180 degree route over Quincy for an experimental six month period, Marchi said.
"The people of Quincy formed a massive grass-roots campaign, impressed the FAA with their awareness of the problem, and with their protests changed the heading of the flights from over the community," Raftery said.
He added that within a few years, the coalition of community groups might be able to have all flights rerouted from land to ocean paths, by drawing attention to the problem and protesting as the Quincy community did.
However, Raymond W. Stone, chief of planning and appraisal for the FAA, said the Quincy heading would have been discontinued after six months with or without community protest. "The National Environmental Policy Act doesn't allow change of heading on more than just a temporary, experimental basis."
Hamilton said yesterday the coalition group would work to make the FAA produce an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which would evaluate the effect of current flight headings. "We want a statement to prove that 210 degrees is the worst possible heading they could use," she added.
"I think the FAA will have to prepare an EIS," Marchi said, adding "Since this has never been done about airport flight procedures before, it will set a precedent in a way." Marchi also said preparation of the assessment would be a year-long, "dragged-out" process.
The FAA will decide in mid-April if there is a need for an EIS, Stone said. "The impact of community views will depend not on their loudness but on their validity," he added.
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