The Shopper News, January 26, 2000

Area wants midnight grounding
By Walter Elliott, Staff Writer

Private and corporate pilots may be kept from taking off or landing during the wee hours at the Teterboro Airport if the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey adopts a proposal by Congressman Steve Rothman.

Rothman (D-Hackensack) announced that he is releasing a letter to PA Director of Aviation William De Cota in a Jan. 13 press conference. The letter, which requests closing Tetrerboro Airport between midnight and 6 a.m., is part of a resurgent drive to restrict flights since the Dec. 9 airplane crash in Hasbrouck Heights.

Officials in Hasbrouck Heights are among those neighboring the airport, according to Rothman aid Adam Zellner, who responded positively to the congressman’s proposal. Some other governing boards, like Wood-Ridge, are considering lending their support.

"Since the press conference (in South Hackensack), we’ve had letters of support from several mayors and councils," said Zellner. "We’re getting them whether the council majority is Democrat or Republican. It shows the PA how broad based the proposal is."

Hasbrouck Heights’ council, said Mayor William Torre, was one of the first to agree with early-hour airport closure.

"We have been asking for that for the last year and a half because of the noise issue," Torre said. "Since the accident, we’ve a safety issue as well."

Torre refers to a Beech Baron TC 58 which, plunged into the back yard of 21Washington St. on Dec. 9. All four occupants were killed in the latest accident that involved a small plane leaving from or landing in Teterboro Airport in the last year.

Hasbrouck Heights, which offers a noise complaint hotline, is a member of three local coalitions trying to abate airport-derived noise. The groups had been discussing the matter with the PA and the Federal Aviation Administration for the last six years.

Wood-Ridge official Paul A. Sarlo said he has pressed airport noise and safety issues during his tenure as a councilman the last five years. Sarlo, who was recently sworn in as borough mayor, is asking the council to join Hasbrouck Heights in supporting the time restriction.

"We have to draft a letter for the council’s consideration," Sarlo said. "That’s one step in improving our quality of life. We’re also asking for planes not to use the ridge along Route 17 as a landing approach."

Rothman became involved with the matter while he was a leader of the Congressional Air Noise Caucus. His letter, said Zellner, included developing a flight monitoring system that can keep all incoming aircraft above 3,000 feet until the last one-quarter-mile of their final approaches. Zellner added that the letter included consideration of aviation and medical emergencies.

"The PA is counting how many flights are transplant runs and the like before getting back to us," Zellner said. "We could make the restriction a condition of the PA’s renewing its lease with Johnson Controls."

The authority has leased airport operations to Johnson Controls since 1995, a contract which was extended last year. PA spokesman Bill Cahill said the airport, which was built in 1917, was bought from the U.S. Army on April 1, 1949.

Teterboro Airport, originally an airstrip for a company founded by Walter Teter, has since added runways into Moonachie. Other towns adjoining the private and corporate airport are Hackensack and Little Ferry.

As for the host borough, Teterboro minicipal administrator Paul Busch said its council has not yet considered supporting Rothman’s proposal.

"We’re dealing with two sets of arguments," said Busch. "If you’re talking about noise, that’s one set of arguments. If you’re talking about safety,where we send our sympathies with Hasbrouch Heights, that’s different set of arguments."

Another less than enthusiastic party concerning Rothman’s proposal is Emma Perez of the New Jersey Coalition Against Aircraft Noise. Perez, of Rutherford, said she’d like the overnight curfew starting at 11 p.m.

"You’d be suprised how much of a difference an hour makes," said Perez. "There’s a lot of night time traffic in and out of the airport."

Rothman shared the press conference at South Hackensack’s Memorial School with State Assemblyman Guy Talarico (R-Paramus) and Township Mayor John Czarnecki. Talarico added his signature on the letter to those of State Senator Byron Baer and State Assemblyman Charles "Ken" Ziza (both D-Hackensack) and state Assemblywoman Loretta Weinbert (D-Teaneck.). Czarnecki handed Rothman his council’s letter of support.

Memorial School was chosen as the conference site as it and Hackensack’s Jackson Avenue and St. Francis of Assisi schools are to receive some $1.3 million in soundproofing material from the PA. It is not known whether any of the other five towns’ schools are to be added to the acoustic job list.

As for the neighborhood affected by the Dec. 9 accident, Torre explained recovery is assessed on physical and psychological levels.

"Physically, the families whose homes were hit by the plane are making repairs," Torre said "Psychologically, the recovery may take a longer time."