Port Authority In The Hot Seat
By NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
|Director of Government Relations for the Port Authority, Brian Simon, addresses the concerns of locals regarding the proposed JFK expansion project. Photo by Natalia Kozikowska.
The Port Authority’s runway extension plan at John F. Kennedy Airport was met with fierce opposition by Southeast Queens residents who argue the project was not only poorly advertised, but will be detrimental to the quality of life in their community.
If the proposal passes, the Port Authority would build an additional 728 feet to runway 4L/22R, one of JFK’s four runways, 460 feet of which would be relocated north towards residential neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale. The project is scheduled to be finished by Nov. 15, 2014.
More than 200 locals attended a public hearing at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church last Thursday, protesting the draft environmental assessment and demanding the Port Authority reopen the comment period.
While residents argued the $500 million project would increase noise pollution and create adverse environmental impacts, reps from the Port Authority claim the project is simply a safety precaution required by the Federal Aviation Administration and claimed that their studies prove there will be “no significant impact” on the community.
The hearing, which was led by Barbara Brown, chairwoman of the Southeast Queens Alliance, began by placing the Port Authority under fire for poorly advertising the open comment period.
“The problem is the people who knew about this project are not the people sitting here,” Brown argued. “Why didn’t we know about the plan when we are the people closest to the airport?” she asked.
Federally mandated to advertise the open comment period with the press, the Port Authority took out an ad with New York Newsday, a newspaper that Brown and other civic leaders claimed is not popular among Southeast Queens locals.
Following allegations that the Port Authority did not do enough to bring the open comment period to the attention of affected locals, Brown and a very vocal crowd disagreed with the findings in the draft environmental assessment which stated there will be “no significant impact” on the community and called for an Environmental Impact Statement.
“We are concerned about this runway moving to the north because to the north means to us,” Brown said. “We hear these planes over our homes every few minutes and this will only make it worse,” she added.
Laurelton resident, Vivika Richards, echoed Brown’s statement, claiming the noise pollution is already out of hand.
“I can’t even sit down and enjoy dinner and a conversation with my family. Every two minutes there’s a plane flying over my house. If they [the Port Authority] go through with this, it’s only going to get worse and worse,” she said.
Edward Knoesel, Environmental Programs Manager at the Port Authority, addressed the concerns by claiming that their studies suggest that locals will not be able to perceive any difference in noise levels. He asserted that their study concluded a change unperceivable to the human ear.
Director of Government Relations for the Port Authority, Brian Simon, sympathized with locals claiming that, as a resident of Springfield Gardens himself, he agreed with the comments made but wanted to make it clear that the Port Authority is simply mandated by the FAA to make these changes as a necessary safety measure taken to accommodate larger plane sizes and to reduce the number of flight delays.
Despite not being able to come to a happy medium, Simon reassured residents that their comments will not be ignored. He announced that the Port Authority has reopened the comment period and encouraged the crowd to express any concerns they may have.
To view the Draft Environmental Assessment or to leave a comment regarding the expansion project, visit http://www.airportsites.net/jfk_Runway_4L-22R_EA/
Reach Reporter Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or email@example.com.