‘Stop the Planes ’
By Howard Schwach
As tired international passengers shlepping bags and pushing baggage carts trudged by, asking the silent question, "what is going on," more than 50 Rockaway residents stood for two hours last Sunday in the cold and gathering darkness across from the American Airlines terminal at JFK Airport, asking that planes no longer fly over their neighborhood.
"Hey, Hey, Fly Your Planes the Water Way," they chanted, "Don’t Make Rockaway Your Runway," and Don’t Fly Your Planes Over My School."
A request from the coordinators of the protest that an American Airlines spokesperson come out to speak with them fell on deaf ears.
And, the hundreds of demonstrators that were promised by SAFE, a mainland group that has argued for years against the flight path of planes coming from JFK, never materialized.
Linda Ruscillo, the Rockaway woman who called for the "grass roots" demonstration, declared it a success.
"We would have liked more people to come," says Ruscillo, pointing to the fact that many Howard Beach and Ozone Park residents were kept from the airport by the traffic snarl around Cross Bay Boulevard and the Belt Parkway created by the thousands of bikers delivering toys to the Faison Developmental Center. "Those people who did come were kind of passionate about halting flights over Rockaway."
"This is not going to be the end of it," she added. "We are going to start with those who did come and we are going to form a committee. We have an idea and we have a passion. Now is the time to prove that we are not a ‘flash in the pan’ group, that we are here for the long haul."
"It is sad that we could not get anybody from American Airlines to come out and speak with us," says Jennifer Parisi. "That was the least that they could do."
"The people who did come were wonderful," Parisi added. "There were just so many things going on that more people could not come, things such as the biker toy distribution, the Harry Potter movie, the Kearney fundraiser. They all worked against us."
The protest was organized as a result of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Belle Harbor on November 12 and the continuing refusal of the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to route planes over the "Breezy Track," a flight path that would take aircraft exiting JFK over Jamaica Bay rather than land until they reach the open water of the Atlantic Ocean.