Avella calls for facilitator to oversee aviation roundtable

By Madina Toure

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said he will not participate in another New York Aviation Community Roundtable meeting until the Port Authority hires a facilitator to oversee the roundtable meetings. A roundtable meeting was on the calendar for May 19 but was postponed due to scheduling issues.

In a letter dated May 4 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other officials, Avella called on the PA to hire an impartial facilitator to monitor the completion of the roundtable’s official bylaws as well as assist with the roundtable’s operations moving forward.

I’m not going to participate in this political/ego nonsense that’s going on at these roundtable meetings,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s just a handful of people who seem to be more interested in their own opinion and their own ego than resolving this and making sure this roundtable moves ahead and is effective.”

The letter was also sent to Borough President Melinda Katz; Carmine Gallo, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Eastern Region regional administrator; and Patrick Foye, the PA’s executive director.

The PA could not be reached for comment. Katz’s office declined to comment.

In the letter, Avella noted that the structure of one roundtable and two committees—one for LaGuardia Airport and the other for John F. Kennedy Airport—was voted on during an April 7, 2015 meeting and that the decision was confirmed through votes at the September 2015 meeting.

But he said Barbara Brown, chairwoman of the Interim Coordinating Committee, revisited the issue at the March 10 meeting.

He also expressed concern about the fact that Brown, who he said has identified herself as the chairwoman of the JFK committee, proposed to schedule a JFK committee meeting even though the roundtable has no bylaws.

Avella said she went ahead and held the meeting April 6 and that she made inappropriate comments. He also claimed that proponents of a single roundtable tried to thwart the committee meeting, saying the committee does not exist.

Brown, who had not seen Avella’s letter, said the coordinating committee has not deemed a facilitator necessary and questioned Avella’s motives.

She said the current roundtable structure was decided upon and that the committees were formed from the very beginning.

She also noted that the Newark Airport aviation roundtable has been functioning without bylaws.

“Those committees legally can meet. No organization waits until it has bylaws in place to discuss substance,” she said. “If bylaws take a year, that doesn’t mean that the entity as a whole, that doesn’t mean that the organization doesn’t function because they don’t have bylaws.”

She added that breakout sessions into smaller groups were supposed to take place for each committee at the roundtable meetings and that no one objected to them.

Warren Schreiber, vice chairman of the Interim Coordinating Committee, would not comment on whether a facilitator is necessary, but said the roundtable is close to ratifying the bylaws.

“As far as Senator Avella, he’s been a really important part of this,” Schreiber said. “He’s been part of this from the very beginning. I really hope he will continue to attend the meetings whether there is a facilitator or not.”

Although he would not comment on Brown’s decision to hold a JFK committee meeting, Schreiber said he felt uncomfortable about holding an LGA committee meeting.

“I didn’t feel that I had the authority to do that without bylaws being in place,” he said.

Susan Carroll, a roundtable representative, said she will continue attending meetings but agreed a facilitator could help.

“It’s (the chasm) deepening over time… If they can bring in somebody who can restore order, then I’m all for it,” Carroll said.

But she was conflicted over Brown’s decision to hold the JFK committee meeting.

“On the one hand, I think it’s good that the JFK committee met and discussed issues pertinent to them, but at the same time there’s no real organization so I don’t know what the end result of that is going to be,” she said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.