By Brian F. Will
For myself and many others in Queens, LaGuardia Airport was always just a thing you saw from the upper deck of the old Shea Stadium. No one ever thought much about it. Departures over Flushing and Jackson Heights were unheard of. The airport’s flight patterns utilized Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the East River. The neighborhoods that surrounded it were considered desirable places to live and superb areas to raise children. The school districts in northeast Queens, Jackson Heights and Woodside were among the best in the city. For residents and travelers alike, LaGuardia only seemed to elicit indifference.
But that’s all over now.
To increase efficiency and fast-track the NextGen initiative, the FAA condensed the region’s airspace in 2012. Departure paths which were once seldom used or scrupulously avoided were rerouted over highly populated areas. Without warning, communities were ambushed with relentless pollution. Residents who once regarded noise as a trivial nuisance quickly learned that they could not thrive under these changed circumstances. Now, generational families are divesting their properties and quietly leaving. What had once been a flourishing and resilient cluster of neighborhoods is becoming a limp appendage of LaGuardia Airport.
This kind of haphazard urban planning is not emblematic of an advanced society, and it has to change.
We must begin to challenge the view that the economic benefits of aviation industry growth automatically outweigh the consequences of a large scale alteration of our human environment. We must also challenge the perception that aviation growth is a natural inevitability. When an airport begins to consume the very city it was built to serve—as was demonstrated in Kai Tak, China—it is time to question our wonted reliance on aviation.
And wouldn’t you know it, even after all the NextGen flight track changes, LaGuardia is still one of the most delayed airports in the nation.
Brian F. Will
Member, Kissena Park Civic Association