2008-05-23 / Top Stories

BCHS Too Noisy? $52M Soundproofing Coming

By Nicholas Briano

Beach Channel High School will soon receive a $52 million tune-up, designed to rehabilitate and soundproof the entire school, as part of a years-old federal noise reduction program for areas impacted by aircraft noise.

Beach Channel lies beneath one of JFK airport's flight paths, officials say. The planned project will install new windows, heating, and air conditioning in the building, including some exterior work, according to a Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson.

DOE released a bid earlier this week in anticipation that the project, which is primarily funded by the federal government, will be approved. Additional money for the project would come from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and from other levels of government, including the city and state.

"The bid has been put in to prepare ourselves if the funding is approved," the DOE spokesperson said.

Beach Channel High School reportedly asked to be part of this program eight years ago, when the funding was first made available to city schools.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), it has been funding similar programs since 1983, spending $130 million to soundproof many schools that surround the two Queens airports. The Port Authority has added an additional $30 million, officials say.

FAA spokesperson Jim Peters says that the funds come primarily from discretionary funds as part of the Airport Improvement Program. Congress sets the level of funding and the funds are then distributed to the Port Authority, which operates all of New York City's airports.

The FAA however, only foots part of the bill under the current program.

"The formula for these types of projects is: the FAApays 80 percent of the cost and Port Authority puts in the remaining 20 percent," Peters said.

Peters added that the actual soundproofing project will cost $34 million. That leaves the Port Authority with the remaining 20 percent or approximately $6.8 million.

The remaining $18 million of the total $52 million project will have to come from city or state funds.

Beach Channel High School qualifies for this funding because classrooms inside the school frequently exceed 65 decibels, the noise level where normal conversation could be disrupted.

Classroom noise however, hasn't been an issue of concern in Beach Channel High School. The DOE spokesperson had no comment on specific complaints about the noise in the school.

A nationwide study released in February 2004 by the federal Interagency Committee on Aviation Noise (FICAN) found that there was a substantial association between noise reduction from airports and the decrease in failure rates.

FICAN has conducted the study since 2000 to determine if frequent airport noise can influence test grades and levels of concentration inside the classroom.

DOE had no specific timetable for the project's approval or construction.

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