Airport Expansion On Feds Agenda
By Howard Schwach
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are poised to enact a bill that would expand Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and double the amount of air traffic that airport handles on a daily basis.
While both the House and Senate version of the bills are entitled, "To Expand Aviation Capacity in the Chicago Area," many local experts and civic activists believe that the bill will sooner or later impact both John F. Kennedy Airport and LaGuardia Airport as well.
"What this means for New York is that the decision making process is taken away from the Port Authority and from local jurisdictions and given to the Federal Aviation Agency," says Dr. Allan Greene, the president of Sane Aviation for Everybody (SAFE), a Howard Beach-based organization that forms a coalition with a dozen other civic organizations. "The locals would no longer have jurisdiction over aviation issues such as building new runways and airport expansion."
"Passage of this bill in the House and Senate will set a precedent that airport expansion advocates will use in their lobbying efforts," Green adds. "Those advocates are already pushing to expand the airports in Queens by adding miles of runway capacity."
Representative Gregory Meeks, who represents Rockaway, sponsored the bill in the House. Representative Anthony Weiner says that he will support it. Senator Charles Schumer was a sponsor of the bill in the Senate and Hillary Clinton has indicated that she will support it.
Locals question why New York representatives support a bill that will eventually harm New Yorkers.
"This is not a bill that we should fight," Weiner told The Wave earlier in the year. "This bill is for Chicago and for Chicago only. The airport expansion act affects only one city and one airport. It will not impact on New York City."
"I don’t support airport expansion at the airports in Queens," the Congressman added, "but I don’t believe that it’s my job to stop something that they want to do in Illinois."
Meeks has long been a fan of airport expansion.
"When you look at the capacity of the city’s airports, there is only one that has room to grow, and that is JFK," Meeks told reporters. In an interview with The Wave earlier in the year, Meeks said that he wanted to bring jobs to Queens and to Rockaway and that the airport was the key to expanding jobs.
Meeks also stressed that the present bill would impact only O’Hare Airport in Chicago.
Even some in Illinois do not agree with that assessment by Meeks and Weiner.
"If this is happening in Chicago, it will be happening in New York very soon," Jack Saporito, the executive director of the Alliance of Residents Concerning O’Hare told The Wave. "The statement that this is a ‘Chicago only bill’ is pure BS."
"The air transportation lobby has give Congressional candidates approximately $20 million in the last year or so. One reason that they pitch the bill as a ‘Chicago only bill’ is to give other Congressmen the cover they need to vote for it. The bill sets terrible precedents for other airports, taking away the state’s and our environmental rights and our ability to better our whole transportation system."