1999-06-05 / Editorial/Opinion

White Elephant To JFK

Perhaps it’s more fallout from term limits. The City Council will vote to approve the "Air Train," the catchy name for the white elephant the Port Authority and MTA plan to build over the Van Wyck expressway. Members of the council will long be gone by the time this project is operating. They won’t have to hear constituents who will forever want to know why they approved such a boondoggle.

Rockawayites and residents who live near the Van Wyck were drowned out by construction lobbyists---they don’t care if the plan makes sense, they just want the bucks that go with such a project. The Port Authority, too, was another behemoth lobbyist. They paid for "ferry feasibility studies" and promised $100 million toward a Laguardia to Manhattan link. They said they’ll install new sidewalks along the route and add lighting and landscaping where needed. $150 million will go to minority and women-owned businesses. Simply, they bribed whom they had to bribe.

In its Land Use Committee, many council members expressed serious reservations about this plan yet gave it the go-ahead anyway. The overriding attitude seemed to be: we’ve been trying to get airport access to Manhattan for 30 years and haven’t been able to so let’s do this.

The right-of-way which exists through Queens and which would have allowed Rockawayites a speedy trip to Manhattan and been a much better and cheaper alternative had two things going against it: politicians like Alan Hevesi (a Forest Hills resident) and the lobbyists who smelled much more money in the "Air Train" project.

The ultimate goal of any plan is to provide a one-seat ride from JFK to the city. Well, get this. The MTA , which will do the actual building, said a one-seat ride is likely to be 15 to 20 years away! And if history is any indication what are the chances of it happening in 15 years? More likely 20, 25, or never.

It’s a horrendous plan and the City Council knows it. We hope Al Stabile and Juanita Watkins follow their consciences when the general vote is cast.

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