By Philip Newman
With five of the six Queens congressmen voting yes, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation preserving a limit on takeoffs and landings at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports for seven years.
The bill, HR 1000, officially known as the Wendell R. Ford Aviation and Reform Act for the 21st Century, won approval March 15 by a 319-101 vote with 14 members not voting.
U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, had fought for an end to limits on air traffic at the airports but finally dropped his insistence on the matter.
The thousands of Queens residents who live beneath the flight paths of the two great air terminals have long complained, often with great vehemence, of the intrusiveness and the threat to health posed by the noise and chemical emissions from the planes.
U.S. Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and Joseph Crowley (D-Elmhurst) and Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), whose district stretches into western Queens, voted for the extension.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Rego Park) voted against the bill.
Crowley's district includes LaGuardia and Meeks' district includes Kennedy.
“This is another big win for New York City residents who deserve safer, quieter skies,” said Crowley. “While the High Density Rule will be lifted at Chicago's O'Hare and severely loosened at National Airport in Washington, we were able to keep the restrictions intact for LaGuardia and Queens residents.”
“The Queens delegation, working in unison with Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, was able to deliver a solid win for the people of Queens and New York state,” said Ackerman.
The measure still requires President Clinton's signature.
Despite the exultation of supporters of the High Density rule extension, many of those who have spent years complaining and taking part in activist campaigns against the din say they are discouraged and feel it is of doubtful help. Many say what they really need is a reduction in flights.
Dr. Allan Greene of Sane Aviation For Everyone, or SAFE, who lives in Howard Beach, contends that the rule does not solve the problem and that those who must endure the many landings and takeoffs find themselves at a nearly impossible disadvantage in trying to oppose federal aviation officials.
SAFE, United Community Civic Association and other activist groups have for years fought to try to reduce fights at the two airports or at least hold the line against increased flights.