Opposition cites environmental damage and threat of bird strikes
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, March 15, 2012,
Dan Mundy, president of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, sits in his yard, which overlooks Jamaica Bay in Broad Channel, Queens. Mundy is opposed to extending JFK Airport runways into Jamaica Bay.
A freshman lawmaker has taken up the rallying cry of local environmentalists by urging the Port Authority not to expand John F. Kennedy Airport into Jamaica Bay.
Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) blasted the suggestion by the Regional Plan Association to look into filling “dead” parts of the federally protected wildlife refuge to accommodate more runways.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is doing its own aviation study — and expanding capacity at Kennedy Airport is one of the options under consideration, an agency official said.
“There are lots of reasons why this is not a good idea,” said Goldfeder, who recently sent a letter to the Port Authority making his position clear. “My community has been more than vocal in opposition to this planned expansion.”
Dan Mundy, president of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, which advocates for protecting and restoring the bay, said the proposal could disrupt the eco-system of the roughly 9,100-acre bay.
“It’s a very critical habitat area. There’s all kinds of fish and aquatic life there — and birds also,” he said. “Nobody would be thinking of filling the Grand Canyon.”
Aviation consultant Ken Paskar said disrupting the bay could also raise the risk of a bird strike — the sort that led US Airways Capt. Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River in 2009.
“Birds and airports don’t mix,” said Paskar, who is also president of the Friends of LaGuardia Airport, a group formed to oppose the construction of a waste transfer station in College Point, near LaGuardia.
Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico said the agency “will be sure to take the Assemblyman’s concerns into consideration” on expanding the airport.
The “agency understands JFK’s proximity to Jamaica Bay and the wildlife it supports,” he said in a statement.
The controversy was ignited after the Regional Plan Association, a transportation research, planning and advocacy group, suggested expanding runways into Jamaica Bay in a report released last year.
Robert Pirani, a vice president at the organization, stressed this was just one of many recommendations on how to make airports more efficient.
“Going into Jamaica Bay poses a lot of environmental concerns,” he said. But “the congestion at the region’s airports is a serious problem and we need to take a hard look at all the options.”
Newark, JFK airports eye expansion as demand expected to rise
July 06, 2011,
By Steve Strunsky/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger
NEWARK — The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is studying how to expand capacity at its airports amid warnings the region could lose billions of dollars in economic opportunity in the coming decade if travelers fly somewhere else.
In requesting proposals for an airport capacity study, which were due Friday, the Port Authority cited a January report by the nonprofit Regional Plan Association.
The study projected demand for air travel in the region would dramatically outstrip total capacity at LaGuardia, Newark Liberty and John F. Kennedy International Airports over the next two decades. A 2007 warning from the Federal Aviation Administration was also cited as a reason for considering expansion .
The association study found regional demand will reach 130 million annual passenger trips by 2029, up from the current capacity of 110 million. Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and JFK are now nearing capacity, having handled a total of 103 million passengers in 2010.
At Newark Liberty, passenger trips are projected to rise by almost 33 percent within 30 years.
In 2010, there were 33.1 million trips at the airport, where capacity is 36.4 million. And demand is seen rising to 37.1 million in this decade, to 41.6 million for the 2020s and to 48 million for the 2030s.
“It’s good that they moved that quickly,” said Jeffrey Zupan, a senior fellow at the association and lead authority of the January report.
Heavy air travel already contributes to Newark Liberty’s consistent ranking as one of the costliest and most frequently delayed airports in the country.
The airport had the highest average domestic ticket price of any major airport for the past two quarters. It had the four recurring flights that are most often delayed in the nation last year, according to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
The planning association called for replacing a short, east-west runway at Newark Liberty with a third north-south runway that would handle more large-jet traffic.
A new runway, which would parallel the New Jersey Turnpike, is estimated to cost $5 billion, including relocation of Terminal B and parts of Terminals A and C.
Expansion options for JFK could add another $10 billion, the planning group found.
“What I understand is that they’ve asked the consulting firms to review our work,” Zupan said of the Port Authority’s request for proposals.
Ron Marsico, a Port Authority spokesman, said the cost of a capacity study had not been established.
Air traffic control technology is another factor in capacity, dictating how close together jets can safely fly, and how frequently they can land and take off. The FAA is hoping to replace its current radar-based system with a satellite positioning system known as NextGen, starting late in this decade. But with the cost of NextGen projected at $40 billion, Zupan said, its timely implementation is no sure thing.
“If we don’t do NextGen,” he warned, “and we drag our feet with runways, this region is going to suffer terribly.”
JFK AIRPORT EXPANSION THREATENS BAY
Letter of Opposition to Runway Expansion Plan
Forwarded to Port Authority Executive Director Christopher Ward
225 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003
Dear Mr. Ward:
The undersigned organizations write to express our strong opposition to recent proposals to expand John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) into Jamaica Bay. Such an expansion would irreversibly harm what is not simply New York City’s ecological crown jewel but a wetlands and estuarine area of national importance. We ask that the Port Authority consider other available alternatives for meeting the region’s airport capacity needs.
Jamaica Bay encompasses more than 25,000 acres of water, marsh, meadowland, beaches, dunes and forests in Brooklyn and Queens, all accessible by subway. It contains a federal wildlife refuge the size of 10 Central Parks, a portion of Gateway National Recreation Area, Bayswater State Park and nearly a dozen city parks. It provides nursery and foraging habitat for the region’s fisheries and other marine life – indeed, Bay waters adjacent to JFK are renowned for some of the region’s best fishing for bluefish and striped bass — and is a critical bird habitat area that is visited annually by what is estimated to be nearly 20 percent of North America’s bird species. It is also home to various endangered and threatened species – from sea turtles to peregrine falcons.
Jamaica Bay provides visitors with opportunities to enjoy nature and all its bounty, and to find relative quietude and respite in the middle of a noisy and frenetic metropolis. In announcing last year that New York City was committing more than $100 million to reduce water pollution in the Bay and to restore its marsh islands, Mayor Bloomberg described Jamaica Bay as “without question one of the most bountiful wildlife habitats in the entire Northeast. It is important to the people who live in the area for its rich biodiversity, the recreation it offers, and the protection the marshlands provide from flooding.” U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Salazar has described it as one of America’s “great urban parks” and just last month outlined ambitious plans to further enhance Jamaica Bay’s natural resource and recreational value to surrounding communities.
A study released in January by the Regional Planning Association (RPA) and funded by the Port Authority surveyed a range of alternatives for meeting projected future aviation demand in the region. The analysis encompassed a variety of expansion projects and operational improvements at the region’s major and regional airports. The array of alternatives included certain alternatives for JFK that would extend existing runways into Jamaica Bay, build new runways in the Bay, and/or significantly increase Bay overflights.
Such an expansion of JFK would have unacceptable adverse impacts on Jamaica Bay. Hundreds of acres of the Bay would need to be permanently filled in, something currently prohibited by federal law. Intrusive commercial jet noise would increase, potentially dramatically. Wildlife conflicts with aviation safety would escalate. Finally, water pollution from the airport, which currently discharges the run-off from the millions of gallons of toxic de-icing fluids used each winter directly into the Bay, would likely increase.
Our groups do not oppose efforts to increase the region’s aviation capacity. The RPA report identifies a number of alternatives that would satisfy the authors’ most optimistic projections of long-term aviation demand growth, including an additional runway at JFK that does not require filling or additional overflights of Jamaica Bay, expansion of Newark Airport (which can be done within the existing footprint), build-out of the regional airports, and technological improvements in air traffic control. We strongly recommend that the Port Authority consider such alternatives in lieu of further consideration of expanding JFK’s runways into Jamaica Bay.
We are confident that you share our view that Jamaica Bay is a natural treasure of singular value. We look forward to continuing to work with you to protect and restore it as a cornerstone of New York City’s and the region’s environmental legacy for generations to come.