By Bill Parry
The Port Authority is considering a new route for the proposed LaGuardia AirTrain after listening to complaints about the project during three meetings in one week last month with Community Board 3 members and civic associations from neighborhoods surrounding the airport, state Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) said.
Aubry told the CB 3 monthly meeting that officials from the Port Authority and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office are preparing a new plan that would move the route away from the Grand Central Parkway closer to Flushing Bay and away from residential neighborhoods.
“They’re working on that new route and they’ll get back to us on it and show us what that means,” Aubry said.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said the community groups should have been involved in the process before Cuomo announced the proposal in January 2015.
“When planning for a major project, in this case the construction of an airtrain between LaGuardia Airport and Willets Point, having the community’s input is vital for it to succeed,” Peralta said. “It is always necessary to listen to the concerns and ideas of the neighbors because, at the end of the day, the project will affect their daily lives. East Elmhurst residents are already suffering from the consequences of heavy traffic, air noise and pollution, and the redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport. Clearly, the community said that they don’t want the airlink on the Grand Central Parkway, and this is why the proposal along the promenade or over Flushing Bay makes sense. I applaud the Port Authority for taking the necessary time and translating the input they received into results.”
The Port Authority was asked to comment but did not reply by press time. Meanwhile, the agency announced new procedures at JFK International Airport during winter storms to avoid the chaos that occurred in early January when incoming flights were unable to get to gates during the “bomb cyclone” known as Grayson.
“We are committed to strengthening JFK airport’s operating procedures during winter storms so that breakdowns experienced last January never happen again,” Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said. “In our continued and ongoing effort to ensure the airport handles winter storms far more effectively, these new measures build on those we announced last January.”
The most significant change will require that during a weather emergency, airlines must certify in advance that a gate will be available when the plane lands. As planes backed up on the runways and taxiways during the storm, the Port Authority was forced to halt all incoming flights, causing thousands of passenger delays.
In the confusion during the storm, airlines lost track of thousands of pieces of luggage. Now every airline serving JFK is required to have in place a baggage service office that meets international best practice standards.
The airport also “will acquire additional high-speed snow removal equipment to improve its performance in future storms,” the Port Authority said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr