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Noisy subway trains are now less likely to interrupt student learning at PS 85, as new air conditioners installed

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Oct. 27, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan

Teachers at a local school will no longer have to compete with train noise to be heard.

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas announced today that air conditioners are being installed in all train-facing classrooms at P.S. 85 in Astoria, located just feet from the raised train tracks at 23-70 31st Street.

“For far too long, teachers and students have been forced to choose between stifling heat if they keep windows closed or interrupted lessons from the noise of passing subway trains, when they open the windows. The choice between these two atrocious conditions was an impediment to learning,” Simotas said outside of P.S. 85, also called the Judge Charles J. Vallone School.

P.S. 85 was built in 1907, ten years before the raised train tracks were added. Since then, if it was a hot day and the windows were open, teachers would be interrupted every few minutes by the sound of a passing train.

Though both the Department of Education and the MTA have taken measures to reduce noise in the past, such as adding sound absorbing tiles to the building and updating the rails and adding noise dampeners to brakes on the N/Q line, noise has remained a persistent problem.

“The noise pollution endured by our children has always been a major concern to families and the school community, and we all worked in unison to get where we are today,” said Ann Gordon-Chang, Principal of P.S. 85.

Simotas said that 31 air conditioners were already installed on October 18, and the remaining 10 would be added by the end of the year.

“With my early research and other academic studies demonstrating that noise can intrude on classroom learning, I am pleased that P.S. 85, which is situated so close to the elevated train tracks, will now have air conditioners in the classroom windows so that classroom teaching and learning will be far less impacted by passing train noise during the warm months with windows that can now remain closed,” said Arline L. Bronzaft.

Bronzaft, an environmental psychologist, has spent the past 30 years studying the impact of noise behavior and health. In 1975, she published a report on a Manhattan school near the raised 1 train platform, showing that students on the side most affected by train noise performed measurably worse on reading tests than those on the opposite side of the building.

“I’m proud I was able to secure funding through the Assembly to finally end the long running battle that parents and teachers have waged to end the noise pollution at P.S 85 in Astoria,” Simotas said.

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