Rumblings over JFK runway expansion continue

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Photo courtesy of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) seem to be full-speed ahead on a plan to extend a runway at John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport, stirring ire and confusion among those who live nearby.

“The FAA spoke as if they’re going to go through with this plan,” said Barbara Brown, chair of the Eastern Queens Alliance (EQA) after a community meeting with the flight organization on Tuesday, December 11.

The plan, proposed earlier this year, would cost nearly $500 million and will extend one of the four JFK runways by 728 feet to the north, closer to nearby residents. It also involves widening the runway by roughly 200 feet. This will allow for larger aircraft carrying more passengers, according to Port Authority officials. They also said JFK could significantly reduce flight delays.

The southeast communities of Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale already have planes flying very low overhead, seemingly skimming the tops of houses, and creating noise pollution throughout the area.

“It’s killing our neighborhood,” said Brown. “And it seems like the planes are flying lower. You can almost reach out and touch them.”

Robert Jaffe of the FAA countered this claim, saying that all altitude regulations for planes are ensured so pilots can have a safe landing, and that from the ground, it is difficult to accurately determine just how high an airplane is in the sky.

Mark Guiod, manager of New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), was also present at the meeting, and explained flight patterns for the five major New York airports to residents.

“We can only land and depart so many planes in one hour,” he said. “And we have to meet the demand that is given to us at any given hour.” Guiod said that TRACON must direct each flight to a particular runway, and that runway is chosen based on availability, wind, weather, operational efficiency and noise considerations.

Despite the informative presentation given by the FAA, residents were still extremely displeased, because no answer was given as to what is going to be done about the excessive noise.

“You have done an excellent job in describing what is good for the nation,” said Councilmember James Sanders. “But you have done a remarkably poor job at describing what is good for this community.”

FAA representatives did, however, suggest that within the coming years, aircraft will get quieter, and noisy engines will disappear by “natural selection.”

After the initial meeting describing the runway expansion proposal on Thursday, October 4, Brown and the EQA drafted a 19-page document with questions and concerns for the Port Authority and the FAA. They have not heard anything, nor has anyone else from the community that submitted similar letters.

There is a coming final draft proposal, which will be followed by a comment period in which the community can pose more questions and concerns, and Brown and the EQA plan to be very active during this period.

If approved, the runway extension will add $150 million in wages and $707 million in economic activity.