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Some making noise over upgrades near airport FAA soundproofing rules are unfair, residents say

Pam Theobald's next-door neighbor qualifies for soundproofing to her home to help lessen the roar of jet engines -- but Theobald does not.

Leonard Kuczkowski lives less than 3,000 feet from the runway at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga, and his house is not on the list for improvements. But those living behind him and two doors down from him fall within the guidelines.

"We're getting it just as much as they are," said Kuczkowski, of Marilyn Drive. "The whole setup they've got just doesn't make sense."

He isn't the only one saying that.

"This is just crazy," said Susanne C. Austin, of Evergreen Place, whose house is not included in the improvements. "My house is now worthless. They're improving. Who's going to want to buy my house?"

There are several neighborhoods around the airport where some residents' homes are included while their neighbors' homes are not. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has been fielding questions from homeowners who did not qualify for the noise abatement.

"This whole program was voluntary to improve the quality of life for those that we could based on the guidelines," said C. Douglas Hartmayer, director of public affairs for the NFTA.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the NFTA are spending $60 million over 10 years to make improvements to houses to help reduce interior noise. The homes that qualify could get triple-pane windows, improved insulation, soundproof doors, new furnaces and central air conditioning.

More than 1,700 homes have been identified for mitigation following a strict FAA protocol based on daily noise levels. Those houses were chosen according to a computer model that created a noise contour of 65 decibels and higher, Hartmayer said. The model adjusted for the recent improvements to the runway.

"[The houses] were literally laid on a map, and the households that fell into the 65 or higher [area] became eligible for the funding," he said.

But some residents feel the contour slices through some neighborhoods with what seems to be abandon. The result, they said, is that some residents will be basking in the air-conditioned quiet and others sulking with windows and doors closed to hear the television. The first 50 homes are to be finished this year.

Donna Lis has lived on Evergreen Place her entire life. She said the noise has increased over the years as planes have gotten bigger and more flights have come to the airport. Her house did not make the cut.

"It stops three houses from me, which is ridiculous," she said. "They're saying that house is louder?"

"It makes no sense to them. It makes no sense to me," Cheektowaga Council Member Thomas M. Johnson Jr. said, adding that neighbors have the same air traffic over their home.

He said the lines cutting through neighborhoods illustrate a basic flaw in the study, and he said he hopes the FAA and the NFTA will reconsider.

Hartmayer said the guidelines are clear and strict.

"You're only able to fund the homes that fall into that contour. The funding is not available to do homes [that] do not," he said.


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