Feels Like Home

All homes come with a quirk that takes a little getting used to. A noisy refrigerator, an amorous neighbor, an overhead flight path, a door that never seems to stay closed are all little annoyances that over time become part of routine and may even be missed when staying elsewhere. Only visiting friends and family point out what used to be obvious but are no longer a conscious part of being home.

I live in an apartment that is a quarter mile from the end of runway 4 at LaGuardia Airport. At its worst, even with an indoor temperature of 100 windows remain closed to slightly abate the noise. At its best, only the songs of birds or the thump of a neighbors washer permeate the apartment. Most of the time there are only subluminal reminders that I only notice when they are missing.

When I tell people that my house is adjacent to an airport I never think they have a full appreciation of what that means. Most modern airports have acres upon acres of fenced field around approaches and take offs. People may live near the flight path and hear arriving or leaving jets overhead at two minute intervals or more. But few can actually hear an engine wind up as a plane begins its roll towards flight.

How close is close? From my kitchen window where I am sitting writing I can see planes 200 feet off the ground with their landing gear down. I have had to switch mobile phone service because of severe interference with air traffic control communication equipment. I have had to lie to a client and put them on hold for 'another call' in anticipation and realization of the deafening thunder that makes conversing impossible. I can walk 4 blocks to pick up a rental car or 3/4 mile to the departures area of the Main Terminal. The streets around my house can get clogged around shift change with Gate Gourmet trucks on their way back to the nearby warehouse for more flight service food and drink. From the bus stop, I can see planes gridlocked like cars as they await their slot for takeoff. It is less hassle and quicker to take a bus than a taxi on my way home from points elsewhere. I know what a 'shorty' means in taxi driver slang and why they hate them.

Fortunately, these annoyances are only temporary. And in fairness I live adjacent to the flight path not under it like plenty of Queens residents and the office of my eye doctor. It could be much worse.

I read an article in the Times today that also describes making the airport home. New York continues to amaze me what lengths its residents will go to make a completely inhospitable environment viable. And eventually, just like my home that is accurately described as next to runway 4, people begin to long for the 'comfort' those places.

paul, Apr 28 2005 12:53PM

I know exactly what you are talking about Mark. Where I currently work we are 3 miles away from Newark's Liberty airport. But we are directly under there landing pattern. Everyday at work we hear an airplane land, at one time I tried counting how many land per day. They are so loud the air conditioning ducts actually amplify them as well as rattle everytime they fly overheard. Sadly, I've gotten used to them.

Sandie, Apr 28 2005 6:25PM

The New York Times article is really interesting. As is the photo essay (click on slide show). I didn't realize how much time cabbies have to recreate while they wait for fares at the airport.