Civic calls for runway expansion impact study

By Juan Soto

The Eastern Queens Alliance had its day in court.

The coalition of civic associations from the borough is now waiting to hear from a three-panel judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals which has to determine if the runway expansion project at JFK must undergo an environmental impact study on the communities surrounding the international airport.

During oral arguments that took place Dec. 17 in Manhattan, Clyde Vanel, the attorney representing the Eastern Queens Alliance, asked the federal judges to require the Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority to complete a full study to determine if the project would have a significant impact on the residents who live in the area.

The plan would expand the tarmac 728 feet, from the current 11,351 feet to 12,079. The runway once completed, Vanel said, would be about 600 feet closer to the community, affecting Springfield Gardens and Rosedale.

“When you move a runway 600 feet closer to a community, you need a study to know how the project will affect that community,” he said. “We are only asking for that study to be done.”

The Port Authority, the state agency that manages the airport, said it conducted an environmental assessment review and found the Runway 4L/22R expansion would have no significant impact on the community. The plan would also widen the runway from 150 to 200 feet, moving closer to the 160-acre Idlewild Park. The project is needed to comply with new FAA air safety requirements and it has to be completed by next December.

JFK serves about 50 million passengers annually, the PA said.

The Eastern Queens Alliance, representing thousands of southeast Queens neighbors, disagree with the findings of the assessment report and file a lawsuit to overturn that determination.

The work, which will cost $292 million, includes replacing the existing asphalt and constructing high-speed taxiways, allowing for landing planes to exit the runway faster.

According to the Eastern Queens Alliance, several studies have shown that if you live within a 6-mile radius of an airport, “you may be at risk of dying prematurely from an environmental carcinogen, such as chemicals associated with airports.”

With a bigger tarmac, the international airport will be able to accommodate larger planes, including the double-decker passenger aircraft Airbus 380.

“This is not only about noise, this project is also about health concerns,” Vanel said, adding that noise and air pollution would automatically increase with a bigger runway. “It will have real impact of air quality, water quality, marine life and wildlife.”

The FAA approved of the Port Authority’s project.

“They assure us that there is no significant impact, but there is,” Vanel said.

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto‌@cngl‌ocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.