BY ASSEMBLYMEMBER PHILIP GOLDFEDER
As your assemblymember, it is my responsibility to ensure that the community’s concerns are heard. On no issue is that clearer than the Regional Plan Association’s suggested plan to the Port Authority to expand the runway at JFK International Airport into Jamaica Bay. Since the plan was first introduced in February 2011, I have listened to hundreds of residents tell me how this would destroy Jamaica Bay and hurt our community, and despite the steadfast public opposition, the idea remains on the table after over a year of deliberation.
The proposal originally devised by the Regional Plan Association calls for parts of the federally-protected Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to be filled-in to create a new runway at JFK Airport. The 400-acre parcel of wetlands and shoreline serves as one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the northeast and is home to over 60 species of reptiles and fish.
An environmental study stated that any further man-made incursion would “diminish a national environment asset for future generations.” For that reason, federal law specifically prohibited any airport expansion in the protected zone in the 1972 wildlife refuge, park and recreation area designation by the National Parks System.
Protecting this wildlife refuge is only one aspect that has worried the community. Both the residents of my community and Jamaica Bay would be greatly impacted by the runway expansion as proposed by the RPA. The project would literally be built in the backyards of communities that rely heavily on the serene atmosphere that the neighborhood currently offers. Property values would undoubtedly be diminished and the potential negative impact to the local area and economy greatly outweighs any benefit a new runway would generate.
In 2009, US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger gave us a true story of American heroism when he made an emergency landing into the Hudson River after a rare bird strike caused an engine on his jet to fail. Unfortunately, I have seen reports from aviation consultants that show disrupting the Jamaica Bay wildlife area could raise the risk of further bird strikes at JFK Airport. I urge more research into how expansion would change the bird sanctuary, so that we can be sure it does not put lives in danger.
Air traffic has greatly increased in recent years. I understand the need for airport expansion, but I stand with the residents of Queens – this proposal simply has too many negative implications. There are a number of different, viable solutions at one of the four other airports in the metropolitan area managed by the Port Authority that could accomplish the same goal with less impact on our families and the environment.
I recently sent a letter to Port Authority executives detailing my apprehensions with the proposed runway expansion at JFK and they have publicly stated they will take my concerns into consideration. Jamaica Bay is a tremendous natural resource that deserves protection. This is a good first step and I hope the Port Authority is finally convinced to drop this plan.
If you would like more information on the proposal to expand the runway, or to discuss this or any other important community issue, don’t hesitate to contact my office at 718-945-9550 or email me at email@example.com.