Port Authority, pols divided over geese

The Port Authority plans to install a geese radar program at LaGuardia Airport following the emergency landing of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Anna Gustafson

Borough legislators and Port Authority officials are at odds over whether the bi−state organization has an effective geese reduction program after a flock of the birds hit a US Airways plane , which may have caused both of the plane’s engines to lose power and forced it to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River Jan. 15.

“Though the city and Port Authority have in the past looked at ways to reduce the geese population at its airports, efforts have clearly been insufficient,” City Councilman David Weprin (D−Hollis) said in a statement.

Weprin, state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) and state Sen. Eric Adams (D−Brooklyn) called Sunday for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which oversees LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark airports, to create an intensive geese reduction program that could potentially include killing more of the geese than already occurs.

Port Authority spokesman Pasquale DiFulco said his organization already has an effective bird mitigation program, although officials are working to better target the wildlife that can prove dangerous to pilots and travelers. The Port Authority plans to implement a bird−detecting radar program at LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports. The Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Air Force have been testing the radar, which is made by Florida−based DeTect Inc., DiFulco said.

“We’ve had a comprehensive wildlife program in place for decades, but we’re always seeking ways in which we can make it more effective than it is, such as the bird−specific radar,” DiFulco said. “This would be another tool to identify anything on the airfield that is not supposed to be there.”

DiFulco said the Port Authority will probably be installing the radar program at JFK in the next couple months and soon thereafter at LaGuardia and Newark. The Port Authority had planned to bring the radar program to Kennedy prior to the emergency landing of Flight 1549 and decided to ask the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to use the detection system at the other two airports following the event.

DiFulco said the Port Authority utilizes a variety of tools to mitigate the geese population, from shooting them to decreasing trash levels at the airports.

Preliminary evidence collected about the crash suggest a flock of Canadian geese that hit the plane may have forced Pilot Chesley Sullenberger to land on the Hudson.

The number of bird strikes at LaGuardia has increased over the years, going from 35 hits in 1999 to 87 in 2007, according to Port Authority data.

Bird populations, including Canada geese, have been on the rise in the area, according to Bob Dieterich, a former Bayside resident and an environmental scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency.

“A couple of decades ago, the state Fish and Game Department decided to try to establish resident populations of Canada geese to stimulate hunting, and prior to that the geese were strictly migratory,” Dieterich said.

“Now they’re running all over the place,” he continued. “It has become a very serious wildlife problem.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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