2004-08-20 / Community

JFK Runway Reconstruction: A Win For Some, A Loss For Others

By Howard Schwach

The graphic that the Federal Aviation Agency and Congressman Anthony Weiner use to show the departure paths of aircraft taking off from John F. Kennedy Airport looks like a map of Queens colored over by an errant two-year-old with a green magic marker.

Much of the western tip of Rockaway is covered by the lines of departure as is Far Rockaway and the Five Towns area in Nassau County.

That, however, is going to change very shortly and there will be winners and losers in Rockaway because of that change.

The two southeast to northwest runways, 31L/13R, will soon be reconstructed, causing more flights to use the two northeast to southwest runways, 4R/22L.
The two southeast to northwest runways, 31L/13R, will soon be reconstructed, causing more flights to use the two northeast to southwest runways, 4R/22L. The Port Authority recently began reconstruction of Runway 31Left (L), 13 Right (R), the runway that runs southeast to northwest. 31L is infamous in Rockaway for being the departure runway for American Airlines Flight 587, which crashed into Belle Harbor in November of 2001, killing 260 people on the plane and five more on the ground.

Many of the flights that take off from 13R/31L will now be diverted to another runway, 4R/22L, which runs northeast to southwest.

Those diversions will make a difference to Rockaway residents, according to a spokesperson for the Port Authority.

Far Rockaway, for example, will see less traffic, as will parts of the Five Towns, Long Beach and Atlantic Beach.

The central portion of Rockaway, however, will see an increase in air traffic over the community, particularly at night.

“We always try to do it [reconstruction of runways] in the least disruptive way for surrounding communities,” Tiffany Townsend, a spokesperson for the PA told Steve Parks of Newsday. “but we have to balance that with the operational needs of the airport.”

Trying not to disrupt the airport means that much of the work will be done at night, when there are many less flights departing or arriving at JFK. That means that many of the diverted flights will be passing over the central portion of the Rockaway peninsula when everybody below is asleep – or trying to be asleep.

While the PA is unwilling to provide a timetable for the completion of work, experts say that it probably will not be completed until sometime early in the new year.

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