A City Council hearing today on resident complaints about low-flying jets from Roxbury to Hyde Park and Milton was sort of moot, because the Massport officials who did attend stressed they have nothing to do with deciding which planes fly where or how.
At-large City Councilor Steve Murphy, who lives on Fairmount Hill in Hyde Park had a simple answer: "From this point forward think of us as plaintiffs," he told the Massport officials.
Murphy and fellow Hyde Park resident and district City Councilor Tim McCarthy joined with officials from Milton in decrying what they said was a sudden influx of what appeared to be especially low flying jets over the past few years - but especially the past few months - over the city's southern tier and also the South End.
"I feel like people (on the planes) are waving to me on my back deck," McCarthy said, adding he has had to pause conversations with his wife when they're there because of the noise. He said he has gotten e-mail from constituents whose babies were awakened by the first planes shortly after 5 a.m.
Murphy added, "I've lived in the Fairmount Hill section of Hyde Park for 51 years, I'm 57, and up until about 3 years ago where we really didn't have this type of an issue."
"This system is unbearable and it is unsustainable," state Rep. Walter Timilty of Milton said.
Glen Berkowitz of the South End said he's tired of "having the living shit kicked out of us every 75 seconds or so."
Athena Yerganian, who has lived on Bellevue Hill in West Roxbury all her life, said she noticed the especially loud planes starting at 5:30 a.m. one day in the last week of last October.
Although he said the decision on how to route planes is up to the FAA, Flavio Leo, Massport's deputy director of aviation planning and strategy, denied that planes are flying any lower than usual. And he said that, in total, over the years jet noise has gone down dramatically because there are far fewer planes taking off and landing at Logan - as airlines learned to pack ever more people on the planes - and modern planes make less noise.
Leo added that the routes for planes taking off and landing largely depends on the direction of winds at the time.
But Milton Selectman Denis Keohane said part of the problem may be that those planes are flying in much more narrowly defined corridors, so when the planes do fly over somebody's house, it's not just one but plane after plane after plane for several hours at a time.
McCarthy and Berkowitz raised the issue of "environmental justice," asking why more planes weren't routed over richer, western suburbs, rather than taking a left turn that brings them down across Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Hyde Park and Milton.
Local officials and residents said they're not looking for a complete absence of jets, just more equity. As Alan Wright of Roslindale, a member of the Logan Airport Citizens Advisory Committee, said, "it's a zero sum game," because fewer planes over his neighborhood means more over somebody else's.
"It really sounds like the poorer neighborhoods are getting the bad end of the stick, as usual," McCarthy said.
In addition to McCarthy and Murphy, city councilors Josh Zakim (Fenway, Beacon HIll, Back Bay, Mission Hill) and Michelle Wu (at large; lives in the South End) attended.