Firing of Massport noise-abatement chief sparks criticism

By Prat Thakkar, Globe Correspondent, 11/22/2001

Despite a rising number of complaints about increased airplane noise near
Logan Airport, the Massachusetts Port Authority has laid off the longtime
manager of its noise-abatement division, a move that sparked angry responses
from community activists.

The agency cited economic reasons for the dismissal last week of 85
employees, including Nancy Timmerman. Activists praised Timmerman and
wondered how Massport will now handle noise concerns.

''They've fired the most competent, knowledgeable, helpful professional
there who really cared about the communities' concerns,'' said Anastasia
Lyman, co-chair of the Community Advisory Committee to Massport and vice
president of CARE, a group that opposes runway expansion. ''What you have
left is the insular, myopic, decrepit management in charge.''

The noise-abatement division fields complaints from residents and
communities, through its complaint line and community meetings. Timmerman,
who headed the division for 15 years, said, ''I was a little surprised. I
guess my only comment would be that as in any other business, the people at
the top spend money on what they choose to spend money on.''

Agency spokeswoman Barbara Platt said 200 employees have been terminated
since October.

Timmerman's departure has left many in the community concerned that
complaints will go unheard and that the division may be closed.

''We see this as a pattern of behavior by Massport to shut down public input
into the noise situation,'' said Craig Sonnenberg of Jamaica Plain, chairman
of the Aircraft Noise Action Committee, a community group that includes
residents of Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Roxbury, and Cambridge. ''There are
four people left in the noise office. Massport has touted its
noise-abatement program, but their actions speak otherwise.''

The activists say that without reliable figures on complaints, the airport
will not be able to document the effect of flight patterns upon nearby
residents.

Platt said there were ''no changes in the department in how it's managed or
planned or run'' and that the agency has arranged for ''backup.''

South End, Jamaica Plain, and Somerville residents say airplane noise has
increased over the past several weeks and that it has been difficult to even
register a complaint because often no one answers the 24-hour line. Many
also say the problem has worsened since the agency computerized the
complaint line, adding voice mail.

Platt cited those changes as signs of Massport's commitment to the line,
adding that the agency ''thinks the line is a community resource and will
continue to work with the community to make it as user-friendly as
possible.''

This story ran on page C4 of the Boston Globe on 11/22/2001.
Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.