HACKENSACK, NJ – The launch of a long-awaited change this summer to the pattern used for flights landing at Teterboro Airport has been postponed until at least next year, a delay that has left city officials upset with the Federal Aviation Administration.

At the quarterly meeting of the Teterboro Airport Noise Abatement Committee (TANAAC) in April, local officials learned that the start would be pushed back until March 26, 2020 since the FAA has yet to complete a required environmental assessment of the proposed procedure.

The alternate path – which would only be used during days with good weather and clear visibility – would divert GPS-enabled planes away from Hackensack University Medical Center and Hackensack’s high-rise residential buildings to nearby Maywood and Rochelle Park, which don’t have large apartment complexes.

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According to FAA spokesman Jim Peters, the federal government shutdown earlier this year prevented the agency from awarding a contract to have the assessment completed, but they have since restarted the process to have the job done.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Hackensack Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino said the FAA representative told TANAAC they had a consultant ready to perform the assessment when the shutdown occurred, however after they didn’t sign his contract he would up taking another job.

“My question is what happened in the months since then and the answer is nothing. They still don’t have a consultant. It’s easy to blame things on the shutdown or the president but you have to take ownership for your roles and responsibilities in this,” she said.

Canestrino added that she was disappointed in the FAA’s recent moves, as Hackensack had previously enjoyed a pleasant working relationship with them.

“Yes, we were upset a couple years ago but we came up with a solution, we were working towards it and we felt like we were partners,” Canestrino said. “I kind of feel like they double-crossed us.” 

The deputy mayor said she’s since sought out Congressman Josh Gottheimer on Hackensack’s behalf.

Gottheimer’s aide “said pretty much the same thing – that they were blaming it on the shutdown,” Canestrino explained.  “Basically, what they said to her was ‘Other areas were a higher priority and had safety concerns.’ That really disturbed me. We have noise concerns but we also have safety concerns and for us to become a lower priority was very disturbing to me.

“With the volume of air traffic that we’re seeing come through the city, it’s no longer if there’s going to be an accident, it’s when,” she added.

Since the airport opened nearly 100 years ago, traffic – as well as noise complaints by residents – have increased. According to city officials, planes fly at a rate of nearly 100 per day, just a few hundred feet above high-rise residential buildings.

Safety concerns have also grown over the possibility of crashes, such as a 2017 fatal wreck in Carlstadt involving a Teterboro-bound plane.

Canestrino urged residents to contact the FAA’s noise hotline to lodge complaints.

“This is a way for us to have a voice,” she said, noting that during the first quarter of 2019 only a dozen city residents called the hotline. “Show them that we’re still upset in Hackensack.”

In addition to calling the FAA hotline, Canestrino called on residents to mobilize and consider picketing the airport during busy times, namely Sunday afternoons, and mailing in complaints. 

“It’s time for the city to mobilize,” said Mayor John Labrosse, who said he has to contend with plane noise at his own home.

Nearby, at Hillers School, teachers and students also have to deal with it, Labrosse pointed out.

“While part of Hillers School does have air-conditioning, there’s also quite a few rooms that don’t. On a very hot day, when it’s 85-90 degrees in the room, you can’t even open a window because it’s impossible to teach as every minute or two, there’s a plane flying overhead,” the mayor said. 

He added: “This affects all of us.”