Advocates say a number of problems dealing with JFK and LaGuardia airports, including noise, need to be addressed before a the renovations at LaGuardia and JFK announced last month commence. (File Photo)
BY YVETTE BROWN
When the announcement was made last month to the proposed renovations at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports, some made note of what was not mentioned.
Borough President Melinda Katz, who serves on the Governor’s Airport Advisory Panel, and residents of the communities around LaGuardia Airport had their own ideas, that would improve living conditions and traffic congestion.
The suggestions included a solution to aircraft noise, a solution to parking, a cell phone lot waiting area, employment opportunities and consolidated car rentals.
Noise has been the most common complaint from residents living near the airports. Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to undertake a series of actions to alleviate the aircraft noise such as establishing a aviation community roundtable, implementing a Federal Port 150 noise study and installing additional monitors to track the noise.
“The Port Authority has already commenced with the Part 150 Airport Noise Compatibility studies, as well as installing additional monitors to track the aircraft noise,” said Katz. “Our recommendations also call for creating a LaGuardia cell phone lot, consolidating the ten nearby off-site car rental locations and bringing them onto airport property and creating more short-and long-term airport parking.”
Cell Phones And Cabs
The cell phone lot, which JFK already has, would be for individuals who are waiting to pick up arriving passengers. The panel recommended that as part of modernizing the airport, the Port Authority should identify a location for an adequate and accessible cell phone lot waiting area.
In light of this suggestion for cell phone lots, some cab drivers have begun to find a way around the wait by having passengers pay $5 or $10 to a dispatcher and then drive straight to the terminal. This has been going on for years and dozens of dispatchers have been caught in the sting operations that are being conducted to stop the payoffs.
On Aug. 12, seven dispatchers at LaGuardia Airport arrived at the Central Air Terminal for what was said to be a training session, but instead they were arrested and accused of bribery.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a written statement that the bribes may have come about in small amounts and that on a busy day with so many cabbies passing through the terminal, “giving a dishonest dispatcher the opportunity to illegally make hundreds of dollars on a daily basis.”
Car Rental Locations
The next suggestion for LaGuardia Airport deals with the car rental locations. There are 10 car rental companies that serve the airport, but only two of them are located on the property.
The recommendation for the Port Authority is for them to explore how the companies can be consolidated into a single facility within a close range or on the airport’s property that will be connected by a single mode of transportation. This would provide passengers with easy access to a car rental company of their choosing and it would help to reduce congestion on the adjacent roadways, according to the panel’s report.
As far as the short and long-term parking is concerned, Port Authority is constructing a 1,100-space parking garage on the east end and a 3,100-space parking garage that will be carried out by the public-private partnership for the construction of the western half of the main airport. The Port Authority must conduct a thorough analysis of how many parking spaces will be needed. Suggestions also included parking being located within easy access to the Airport People Mover or within walking distance of the terminals. Parking garages should also be incorporated into the overall architecture to ensure a unified design treatment of the entire airport complex.
“These measures are designed to immediately help alleviate traffic and congestion plaguing the neighborhoods in the vicinity,” Katz said explaining how the new parking garage will help travelers and residents.
The project is expected to generate an additional 8,000 direct jobs and 18,000 total jobs. The report explained that not only will the project be significant for the borough of Queens in providing jobs, but it will also increase participation by minority and women owned and Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) and Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) had concerns regarding employee parking on the premises of JFK. Many employees have had to park over a mile away from the airport due to congestion and have had to take mass transportation to get to the airport. They’ve sent joint letters to major airline companies at JFK so that they would respond to the reports of what these employees have to do, this disrupts other residential areas in the adjacent neighborhoods surrounding the airport.
“Our middle class families work hard and deserve to enjoy the community they invested in, without having to spend their days and nights circling the block looking for parking,” said Goldfeder. “I urge the major airline companies and other occupants of JFK to be good neighbors and put the brakes on this practice.”
With JFK employing about 37,000 employees, the Airtrain has accommodated about 700,000 passengers so far this year causing local residents to be caught in the middle. These elected officials have also announced an upcoming meeting with the Transportation Security Administration representatives in regards to finding a solution to this longstanding issue. TSA explained that they do receive a $25 monthly federal subsidy to help offset costs on the $60 monthly employee rate charged by the Port Authority-operated garages at JFK.
“We encourage all airport employees to park at on-airport lots and have their fees significantly lower than regular rates to help ease the impact,” said a spokesperson from the Port Authority.
In the letter, they addressed the concerns that coincide with the construction to extend JFK’s east-west runway which has caused increased traffic and airplane noise for residents of the area.
“Given recent concerns over airplane noise, families in southern Queens have shown considerable patience and understanding in dealing with many nuisances posed by their neighbors at JFK,” the letter stated. “It is only fair that the airport take steps to limit the problems our families face.”
The Panel also recommends that the Port Authority ensure that airport development supports Gov. Cuomo’s goal of 30 percent MWBE participation, according to the report. The suggestions for the Port Authority included ensuring that development reaches a broad spectrum of businesses and job seekers that reflects the community and the region of where the airport is located.
“As much as LaGuardia and JFK International are tremendous economic assets to Queens and to the region, with them has come the need to mitigate the direct, daily impacts of growth upon the thousands of families immediately surrounding them,” said Katz. “When convening this blue-ribbon panel on which I have had the pleasure to serve, the governor charged us with ensuring that community needs are addressed.”
There have also been suggestions from Goldfeder regarding transportation access for those who live in Rockaway Beach.
“I applaud Gov. Cuomo’s ambition for bringing new facilities and world-class amenities to JFK and LaGuardia airports; however, the state needs to ensure that we have the transportation access to match these aggressive plans,” said Goldfeder. “The best and most cost-effective way to improve transportation for millions of local families and visitors from all over the world is to reactivate the Rockaway Beach Rail Line. Reactivating this line could link these two vital hubs and create a true north-south corridor in the borough. The Governor’s announcement has given us a real chance to transform the transit landscape in Queens and throughout the city. I urge the Governor not to pass up on this once-in-a-generation opportunity and support the full reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line.”
Among the many changes being implemented to LaGuardia Airport, it was also announced that the Port Authority would review the existing perimeter rule – which bans flights to destinations over 1,500 miles away – to determine whether it remains in the best interest of regional air travelers. Delta Air Lines, LaGuardia’s largest carrier, has pushed for the rule to be lifted. Along with Delta Air Lines, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and his other assembly and state colleagues sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo and the Port Authority to express their opposition to any consideration of lifting the perimeter rule at LaGuardia Airport.
“Communities in New York City and Nassau County are already suffering from excessive noise due to increased air traffic over the last few years,” said Braunstein. “The last thing we should be doing is adding heavier and potentially louder planes to the airspace above these neighborhoods.”
The letter stated that allowing flights longer than 1,500 miles will result in heavier planes departing from LaGuardia Airport, due to the extra fuel needed for those flights, meaning they will be louder during takeoff.
“Our research indicates that heavier planes take longer to reach higher altitudes, and therefore are closer to the ground for a longer time during departure,” the letter stated. “This may result in an increase in airplane noise for the neighborhoods under these flight paths.”
The letter was signed by many of Braunstein’s colleagues, including state Sens. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Assembly Members Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights), Ron Kim (D-Flushing), Edward Ra (R-Nassau County), Nily Rozie (D-Fresh Meadows), Michelle Schimel (D-Nassau County), Michael Simanowitz (D-Kew Gardens Hills), Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and Michaelle Solages (D-Nassau County). All represent communities under LaGuardia’s flight paths.
Reach Yvette Brown at (718)357-7400 ext.128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @eveywrites