Belmont/Watertown Takeoff Noise Concerns Remain Up In The Air

Photo: Adriana Poole (in foreground) speaking to State Rep. Dave Rogers, State Rep. Jonathan Hecht and Belmont CAC representative Myron Kassaraba at a community meeting on noise from departing jets from Logan Airport.

Adriana Poole knows first hand about oppressive government agencies.

Born and raised in Romania under the Stalinist regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Louise Road resident recalls the total contempt the government had for its people.

Today, after living in the United States for decades, Poole thought her time with uncaring dictatorial authorities was at an end.

“I’m not saying this lightly, the [Federal Aviation Authority] to me is a pocket of totalitarianism … in the midst of the best democracy on earth,” said Poole as she spoke to elected officials, town representatives and citizens at a community meeting last week, Dec. 3, to discuss the increase in noise from aircraft departing Logan Airport.

Poole, who created the QuietBelmont Google forum group to provide a place to discuss and vent about the number and frequency of planes flying over Belmont and surrounding communities, said it was “troubling that no one seems to be addressing [the FAA which has] absolute power. That’s just not OK.”

According to Belmont’s rep on an overview group, it appears federal intervention, in addition to loud, community activism, is the only way to force the FAA’s hand on the issue.

Nearly one year to the day when it made its initial presentation to the town, the Belmont representative to the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee was back before a joint meeting with their Watertown colleagues at Belmont Town Hall to update residents on the FAA’s new departure procedure and efforts to address the increased airplane noise from departing flights using Logan’s Runway 33 left.

At the meeting, Belmont CAC representative Myron Kassaraba used a detailed slide presentation that demonstrated that since June 2013, the FAA – which regulates and oversees all aspects of American civil aviation – implemented a new route for planes departing Logan. In the past, the routes out of Boston were much more random in their distribution with planes using a wide swath of air space.

With an eye towards safety and efficiency, the FAA deployed technology in June 2013 that now requires planes to move in much narrower paths as they head to the south and west. Unfortunately for residents, three of the four main air avenues fly directly over Belmont.

As a result, noise complaints to Massport, which runs Logan Airport in East Boston, have skyrocketed in the past year – from zero in Feb. 2013 to more than 250 in the same month in 2014, the most of any community in the region – as the sound of dozens of planes pass overhead “very concentrated population areas” throughout the day, said Kassaraba.

There have been some small victories for local communities to cheer, according to Kassaraba, including a trial that will last until January of varying the use of runways at Logan so that noise is not constant throughout the day but during the morning or evening. In addition, the airline industry is moving towards quieter, more fuel-efficient engines, which State Sen. Will Brownsberger said must be encouraged by the public and elected officials.

While Belmont residents are raising the concern of quality of life as well as related health concerns, the FAA is preparing a final study that could demonstrate that a greater number of communities in and around Boston are less effected by aircraft noise and they addressed other issues. Currently, the FAA is supporting its claim using what many see is an outdated noise model based on four decade old statistics.

Kassaraba said the CAC and elected officials have spoken to officials on Beacon Hill and with Massport CEO (and Belmont resident) Thomas Glynn on the noise concerns but “[t]his is really a federal issue so if there are any changes, it must be done in Washington [DC].”

“It will take an act of Congress” to change the flight patterns, said Kassaraba.

While admitting movement has been slow in approaching the FAA on issues impacting communities – it is hardly a single region concern as citizens in New York City, Chicago and Phoenix have recently complained of increased noise from aircraft – Jennifer McAndrew, a senior advisor to US Rep. Katherine Clark said she is an inaugural member of a new group of 25 representatives from communities impacted by airport and plane noise dubbed the Quiet Skies Caucus which was created in October to find solutions to noise barraging their constituents.

After sending a letter to Michael Huerta, the FAA’s administrator, Clark received a response in late November that indicated a willingness by the FAA to conduct a noise survey in the next year to determine if the current noise model is valid. 

In addition, the FAA’s reauthorization will be before Congress in 2015, an opportunity to push for greater responsiveness to citizens complaints, said McAndrew.

“These are small steps forward in a very long process,” she said.

In the meantime, residents should continue to file complaints via phone or online with the Massport noise complaint line, said Kassaraba.

Poole said that long lasting change to the current environment is to pressure federal and local officials to add language to the FAA’s mission statement that it must address any and all adverse impact they have on communities.

“To the FAA, I’m just collateral damage,” she said.

This Week: Santa’s Here on Thursday! All-Night Shopping Tuesday, Flu Clinic Friday on the Beech

• On the government end of things, the Belmont Board of Selectmen are meeting on Monday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall while the Zoning Board of Appeals will hold court in the Belmont Gallery of Art at the same time and date. The Belmont Planning Board will meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall while over at the Chenery Middle School, the Belmont School Committee will be in session beginning at 7:30 p.m.

• The Belmont Public Library’s 7th-8th Grade Book Club will discuss Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson on Monday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Young Adults Room. Attendees will also choose January’s book and enjoy some snacks.

• Pre-School Storytime will be held at the Benton Library, Belmont’s independent and volunteer run library, on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 10:30 a.m. Stories and crafts for children age 3 to 5. Parents or caregivers must attend. Siblings may attend with adults. Registration is not required. The Benton Library is located at the intersection of Oakley and Old Middlesex.

• Growing in popularity since beginning in 2010, Belmont Center’s fifth annual Midnight Madness will allow shoppers to buy locally from 21 stores which will stay open from 6 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday, Dec. 2. There will be snacks, drinks and each hour, customers can expect even deeper discounts. 

The Belmont Public Library is hosting a Homework & Hot Chocolate for Chenery students from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 3. Stop by the Assembly Room, work on your homework, enjoy some hot chocolate, and try out an activity. Provided to you for free, thanks to the Friends of the Belmont Public Library.  Just drop in, no registration required.

• The extremely popular Art Classes resume for the year at the Beech Street Center with the first class taking place on Wednesday, Dec. 3, from 2 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Catherine Tang, now a senior at Belmont High School, returns to teach – without charge – her popular art class on Wednesday afternoons. Catherine uses, and provides, a variety of media including colored pencil, water color, charcoal, etc. There is no cost to attend but you must sign up.

• Representatives from Belmont and Watertown that serve on the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee are hosting a public meeting on airplane noise from Logan airport on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. in Belmont’s Town Hall. 

• The Beech Street Center is holding hearing screenings on Wednesday, Dec. 3, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Receive a free hearing test, and if needed your hearing aid battery replacement. Mass Audiology offers this service free of charge to Center participants. Sign up at the front desk or call 617-993-2970.

• It’s LEGO time at the Belmont Public Library from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4. The library’s LEGO club is for kids in kindergarten through second grade who want to meet and create their own unique structures.  All LEGOs will be provided so just bring your imagination to the Assembly Room.

• Mrs. Claus joins Santa for the Belmont Center Business Association’s 24th annual “Turn on the Town” celebration on Thursday, Dec. 4 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sponsored by Belmont Savings Bank, the holiday festivities will run along Leonard Street in Belmont Center.

• Rogers Pharmacy will conduct a flu immunization clinic at the Beech Street Center on Friday, Dec. 5 from 1 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. The flu shot is covered by Medicare, Part B and by most health insurance plans. Otherwise the cost is $25.99.  


Public Meeting on Logan Noise Set for Dec. 3

A public meeting to update residents of Belmont and Watertown on the increase in noise over the communities from aircraft departing Logan Airport will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at  Belmont Town Hall.

Representatives from both communities on the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee (Logan CAC) will host a public meeting to discuss the activities being taken in response to the changes in runway usage and resulting increase in noise over Belmont and Watertown.

In the summer of 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration allowed changes to the flight pattern of aircraft departing from runway 33L which have led to significant increases in noise complaints from Belmont and Watertown residents.

This will be an informational meeting so community members with specific noise complaints should direct them to the Massachusetts Port Authority Noise Abatement Hotline online or by calling 617-561-3333 on weekday days from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.


The meeting is expected to be attended by state Reps Jonathan Hecht (Watertown) and David Rogers (Belmont) state Sen. William Brownsberger as well as a member of U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark’s staff. Clark has been working with other Congressional Representatives as part of the Quiet Skies Caucus to advocate with the FAA on noise-related issues.