John F. Kennedy International Airport has some angry neighbors to the north, thanks to a proposed plan by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to extend a runway closer to a nearby residential community.
“Our question is, how big is big enough?” asked Barbara Brown, chair of the Eastern Queens Alliance, of the potential 728-foot runway expansion. At a public hearing on Thursday, October 4, hundreds of southeast Queens residents gathered in St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Springfield Gardens to voice their opposition to the Port Authority’s plan.
“This is airport sprawl,” said Brown,as planes could be heard soaring overhead.
The Port Authority, under Federal Aviation Association (FAA) guidelines, wishes to widen JFK runway 4L/22R by roughly 200 feet, and expand it to the north. This change will allow the runway to accommodate larger aircraft carrying more passengers, according to Port Authority officials. Also, officials said, JFK would potentially experience a significant reduction in flight delays.
However, Queens residents are concerned with the noise and air pollution they expect the expansion to bring, mainly to the Springfield Gardens community.
“There will be a significant impact,” said Brown. “The Port Authority slipped up, they didn’t do their diligence.”
Brown and the Eastern Queens Alliance also accused the Port Authority of not making the local community aware of the proposed change, instead warning the residents in Nassau County.
The agency advertised its $500 million plan in Newsday last spring, and allowed the Long Island community to voice its concerns, which will be considered by the FAA. However, those closest to the airport were unaware of the situation until much later, they claim.
Brian Simon, director of government relations for the Port Authority, attended Thursday’s meeting.
“I thank [Brown] for keeping us honest,” he said. “Sometimes in government, we are not perfect. We can do better.”
Simon stated they are mandated by the federal government to create this project, and noted the large economic output that could result from the expansion.
“[JFK is] an economic engine that serves this community,” he said, citing the jobs that the international airport creates.
Port Authority environment officials have also done an analysis of the area, as well as tests regarding noise pollution. Studies found that the expansion would only raise the noise level by 0.7 decibels, an amount nearly undetectable by the human ear. Thus, officials claim there would be no significant impact.
Residents responded by “boos” and shouts, not won over by the Port Authority’s arguments.
“We are open to all comments,” said Simon, who encouraged residents to contact him after the meeting with their concerns.
The local community now has until November 1 to file complaints with the Port Authority, which will be considered by the FAA and put into the plan’s final proposal.
If approved, the expansion will be complete by late 2014.