Editor’s note: The following is a copy of a letter that Hewitt resident Ralph Larsen sent to U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer. It’s used with Mr. Larsen’s permission:
Congressman Gottheimer, my name is Ralph Larsen. For the last forty-three years my wife and I have lived in what I used to consider the wilds of Passaic County. Our home is, or at least once was before I re-sided with vinyl, an authentic West Milford log cabin. We are situated on the western ridge of Greenwood Lake in a community of log homes known as Lakeside.
I worked my entire life in Bergen County and commuted an hour each way to work every day of my adult life. It was a bargain I made with myself. I gave up ten hours of my life every week to driving time, in order to enjoy the clean air and peace and serenity of a home in the woods.
But all that changed some years back. Ten years or so ago, the people governing such things decided to move the approach route to one of the major airports in our area directly over the roof of my home. Some route planner must have figured this was the best solution to a problem that could never be completely solved.
Planes are never going to disappear until something better and faster comes along, and as long as they are here they need to decelerate along a set route in order to land in a safe and orderly fashion.
So, where better to do it than on a line shared by two states, over the least populated area possible?
If I was still athletic, I could throw a baseball from the roof of my cabin and hit the state line between New York and New Jersey. And it is directly down this line that a major airliner has been coming every five or ten minutes for the last long number of years.
And to make matters worse, because I’m situated in a largely unpopulated no-man’s-land between the ridge of a state forest to my west and a mile-wide lake to my east, these jet liners reverse their engines in the exact spot I live.
It never varies.
I was selfishly heartbroken when the noise began and my peace and quiet disappeared both day and night, but I understood the logic and perhaps even the inherent fairness of the decision.
Before they were directed over the roof of my cabin, all these planes had been someone else’s problem and heartache, right?
And now they would be mine.
But they’ve been my problem for a long time now. It may be ten years or more. I hope your office can look into exactly how long it has been, and if it is time in all fairness, perhaps help to make them someone else’s problem going forward.
I feel like I’ve served my time and done my part. I’m seventy-four years old. I’m not going to be around forever.
Before I go, I’d like one last chance to sleep in my bed in my log cabin in the woods and not have it sound like I’m at the Ramada Inn at Newark Airport.
And let me close with this. I’m not a fool. I know landing routes to major interstate airports are not quickly or easily changed.
But here’s a curious thing. While visiting friends both in Warwick, New York, the town to my immediate west, and Bergen County along the Route 208 corridor to the east, I see the same planes that plague me with their noise, but I don’t hear them. It is apparently only when the engines are reversed to reduce their landing speed, which happens invariably directly over my home and Greenwood Lake, that they create their doomsday whine.
So my request to your office is this. Could you please look into this matter, and if, by the rules that govern such things, it is time for some route changes, do your best to bring them about? Or almost equally satisfactory to me, if the routes must remain fixed, in the interest of sharing and my personal peace of mind, could the planes now be re-programmed to reverse their engines elsewhere on their approaches, over someone else’s roof?
I know this is a big ask. But honestly, if you were to visit my home and sit and share a beer with me, and hear the thunderous noise in the sky I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to ignore this past decade, you’d realize it is also a big problem.
I’ll close with this. I’ve contacted your office and the women and men who work there in the past with lesser problems, and most times the problems got corrected, and never did they get ignored. I thank you for being such an active spokesperson and strong advocate for the people you represent.