2011-04-15 / Top Stories

Task Force Opposes Runway Expansion

By Miriam Rosenberg

Emotions ran high last week as the Jamaica Bay Task Force hosted a meeting to discuss the expansion of runways at JFK Airport that was proposed in a recent report.

Approximately 150 people filled the American Legion Hall on Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel to voice their opposition to the Regional Plan Association’s report released earlier this year that recommended extending the runways at JFK into the bay.

Heading up the April 7 meeting were local members of the Task Force and Ecowatchers Dan Mundy Sr. and Dan Mundy Jr.

During a presentation entitled “Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers – A Response to the RPA Report on JFK Expansion,” the younger Mundy said there were many problems with the report’s conclusions and recommendations.

“There are many mistakes and inaccuracies in this report and the implications are huge,” said Mundy Jr.

Going over RPA reports from 1947, 1969, 1973 and 1993 Mundy said, “The history of projections of those using airports have always been overstated.”

Ecowatchers also suggested that the Port Authority look at other alternatives to accommodate the air traffic – Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, MacArthur Airport in Islip, and Westchester Airport.

The RPA report cites the area known as Grassy Bay as a “dead zone” and suggests filling it in would help the environment. Mundy said, “It’s a stretch and a leap to make it seem like it’s a benefit to the bay, and it’s not.”

The current RPA report did not mention previous RPA reports from 1969 and 1973 as well as a 1971 report by the Jamaica Bay Environmental Study Group in which scientists concluded any further man-made incursions into the bay “diminishes a national environmental asset of great potential for future generations.” In 1973 RPA came to the conclusion to not expand runways at existing airports.

“It wasn’t rejected out of emotion, it was rejected out of science,” said Mundy.

“It was two years in the making,” said Mundy Jr. “No environmental groups were involved. No civic leaders, no community groups were involved. Nobody was asked for any input whatsoever.”

Captain Vincent Calabro has been fishing in the bay for more than 40 years.

“The bay is a tremendous natural resource,” said Calabro. “If they do this extension it is going to be a disaster.”

He said an expansion would impact area businesses such as boat companies and marinas; and those who enjoy the water like kayakers, crabbers and recreational fishermen.

“[They could] expand the airport, but at what cost to you and me and others who enjoy the bay?” Calabro asked.

Robert Pirani, the vice president for environmental programs at RPA, explained the reasoning behind their report.

“The goal of the report was to look at the needs in the New York metro area, not just JFK, not just Jamaica Bay, but across the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut area about what the needs for air travel [capacity and congestion issues] were for now and in the future,” said Pirani, who added that the report has about 30 recommendations to correct problems with the airport.

He admitted, “One thing the report didn’t do was look at the community impact and the environmental impact that would be associated with any of the expansion issues. …I think there’s a statement in the report addressing how this expansion or any expansion, or any of these improvements, would happen. It’s going to have to happen with discussions in community and environmental groups.”

The PA representative said that any action taken would be done “in the public realm.”

Congressman Anthony Weiner and Councilman Eric Ulrich both said they oppose any expansion.

“This [expansion] requires a change in federal law that created the park that is our neighborhood backyard park,” said Weiner, who took time out of the budget battle in Washington to fly in for the meeting. “I have spoken to the Secretary of the Interior, to the chairman and the ranking member of the committee in Congress and I have made it very clear that, while there is the ability for the Secretary to make minor changes in the map, this is not minor, this is major. I’m against this, and I’m not going to let it happen.”

Priani said that, as a result of the meeting, “There will be some revisions made in the report.

“Some of the language in the report is going to be changed, he said.”

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