Waste transfer station meets with opposition

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The members of Friends of LaGuardia Airport believe the North Shore Marine Transfer Station, which is currently under construction in College Point and expected to be completed in 2013, will increase the likelihood of midair collisions between airplanes and birds.
The members of Friends of LaGuardia Airport believe the North Shore Marine Transfer Station, which is currently under construction in College Point and expected to be completed in 2013, will increase the likelihood of midair collisions between airplanes and birds.

A local advocacy group is hoping the city trashes its plans for a waste transfer station near LaGuardia Airport – which it says attracts flying objects other than planes.

The members of Friends of LaGuardia Airport believe the North Shore Marine Transfer Station, which is currently under construction in College Point and expected to be completed in 2013, will increase the likelihood of midair collisions between airplanes and birds.

“The main issue is that it is a hazard to aviation because it is a bird magnet. January 15 is the anniversary of the miracle on the Hudson,” said group president Ken Paskar, referencing the emergency landing by US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger in the Hudson River after his plane was struck by a flock of birds. “I believe that these are miracles, and we can’t expect every single incident to be a miracle. If this station is built, I believe it is a question of when, and not if, there will be a bird strike.”

According to a report commissioned by Friends of LaGuardia, the station, which is roughly 100 feet high, would also make it impossible for the airport to implement a low visibility precision instrument approach procedure (IAP), which aids pilots during inclement weather landings. Economist David Berkey, who conducted the study, says LaGuardia currently reroutes planes away from its main runway in low-visibility weather, increasing the number of delayed and cancelled flights.

“If they build this transfer station, the airport cannot use IAP, and in inclement weather, they will continue to reroute planes from their main runway,” said Berkey, who claims he used highly reliable data from airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the study. “This is costing between $74 million and $183 million a year in cancellations and delays. Right now, because they don’t have IAP, they are also delaying half a million to a million people a year – and this will only get worse with the station.”

Due to an ongoing lawsuit filed by Friends of LaGuardia, the FAA deferred comment to the United States Justice Department, which declined comment.

Julie Wood, a spokesperson for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, says the installation if IAP at LaGuardia was deemed impossible – regardless of the station’s construction – due to the “many technical and physical obstacles at the airport.” Bird collisions are also not considered a serious threat, according to Wood.

“Experts at the FAA have studied bird patterns thoroughly and believe that this transfer station will absolutely not increase the risk of bird strikes,” said the spokesperson. “Anyone who says otherwise is scaring people for no good reason. Building this transfer station will allow us to achieve the important goals of our waste management plan – making it cleaner and greener by taking trucks off the street.”

Despite the assurances of the FAA and due to concern for their constituents’ safety, Assemblymembers Grace Meng and Michael Simanowitz recently introduced a bill that would prohibit the construction of transfer stations near airports in New York City. Senator Toby Ann Stavisky plans to introduce the bill in the Senate as well, according to Meng.

“It is not fair to Queens to have the station placed so closely to the airport and so close to where people live,” said Meng. “People are scared of another accident like what happened with Captain Sullenberger.”

Beyond increased difficulties and dangers to aviation, Paskar believes the station will also create foul living conditions for College Point residents.

“A lot of the garbage in the borough will be brought to this station to be transported out of Queens,” he said. “So the people of Flushing and College Point will now have to bear the burden of approximately 3,000 tons of garbage a day from throughout Queens in their community. Hundreds of garbage trucks will be coming to this transfer station and destroying the neighborhood’s transportation infrastructure as well.”