Construction Starts On Radar Tower
By John McLoughlin
As crews start preliminary work on the construction of the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar tower at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger stepped up his opposition to the project, which includes bringing in a big gun--City Hall.
"I have had conversations with the mayor and he is greatly concerned about the environment and health impact the radar site will have on neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens," Kruger said. "He sympathizes and supports our position on this matter and indicated that he will use the resources of the city to advance one of the alternative sites, the construction of a specialized platform out in the water, further from JFK and closer to La Guardia, that would better address the needs of both airports as well as the community."
Doppler Radar was formerly proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Floyd Bennett Field in March 1999. Doppler, a 37-foot ball atop an 82-foot tower, is radar equipment for detecting deadly wind shear by Kennedy International and La Guardia airports. The proposal was met with immediate opposition from Rockaway and Brooklyn residents, environmental groups and the Department of Interior. Not only were there claims that the radar energy emissions would be a health risk, but both residents and officials of the Department of Interior believed that a national park was not the site for a radar tower.
Opposition from the Department of Interior quieted after the Clinton Administration proposed a "compromise" in the dispute between the National Parks Service and the FAA. Under the proposal, the Parks Service could remove the radar tower after 20 years and the FAA would pay for minor improvements to the park.
Senator Kruger said that the Clinton Administration has turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the community for another solution. "Gateway hosts more than 1.5 million people a year and contains many recreational resources that would be negatively impacted upon this radar tower," said Kruger.
Congressman Anthony Weiner has also joined the opposition against Doppler Radar, having said at a Earth Day rally last year, "The FAA is dead wrong if it thinks it can turn our national park into a construction site. You wouldn't put a Doppler in Yosemite and you're not going to do it in Gateway."
Senator Kruger further explained that Floyd Bennett Field was originally scratched from the short list of potential sites. "In the words of the FAA engineers it was 'too close to JFK and too far from La Guardia,' yet the construction has begun and the lives of airline passengers at both airports are at risk because the FAA is placing expediency and cost above safety," Kruger said.
According to a draft Environmental Impact Survey (EIS) done by FAA engineers, an optimal site for the Doppler Radar should have a clear line-of-site and provide coverage from 70,000 feet down to 300 feet. The draft EIS clearly shows that the airspace over La Guardia Airport is uncovered below 600 feet.
"The FAA simply changed the rules when it was unable to find a single site to adequately cover both New York City airports," Kruger said. "Somehow in the time between the draft EIS and the final EIS, the required coverage from 300 to 600 feet changed from 'clear' to 'partial' and Floyd Bennett Field was back in the running for the FAA's purposes."
A coalition of local activists and environmentalists, organized by Congressman Weiner, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September 1999 challenging the FAA's plan to install Doppler in Gateway. The lawsuit focused on Section 3a of Gateway National Park's enabling legislation, which states "nothing shall authorize the expansion of any air facilities at Floyd Bennett Field." Oral arguments in this lawsuit are scheduled for March 9, 2000. Congressman Weiner will join Senator Kruger and other elected officials in speaking against this project.
"In light of the current construction activity at Floyd Bennett Field, the result of this suit may be too little too late," Kruger said. "It would be an act of good faith for the FAA to halt construction at least until the outcome of this lawsuit is known."