Two Queens elected officials have taken a stance against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s current plan for the LGA AirTrain.
Senator Jessica Ramos and Councilman Costa Constantinides told QNS that they’re concerned the current $2 billion plan to build an air train from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport terminals might cause detrimental damage to Queens’ northwestern communities.
“Albany has neglected transportation issues in Queens’ working class communities for far too long,” Ramos said. “While the state funnels $2 billion into the AirTrain, the BQE is falling apart and our transit system is failing. This money would be better spent improving our infrastructure and providing better transportation alternatives for the people who make Queens thrive.”
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Without a comprehensive plan for the people in our East Elmhurst community, I cannot in good conscience support the LGA AirTrain,” Ramos added.
Constantinides, who’s the chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection in the City Council and is running for Queens borough president, raised concerns over the environmental aspects of the current plan.
“The current proposed route for the AirTrain poses major environmental threats to Flushing Bay and Creek, as Riverkeeper and the Guardians of Flushing Bay have made clear,” Constantinides said. “I hope the Port Authority can re-explore some of the alternative paths it seems to have overlooked. We need to move people to and from LaGuardia Airport, but it cannot be at the expense of our already precious ecosystem.”
Their response comes a few days after Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority, defended the current LGA AirTrain plan in a Daily News editorial. Cotton wrote that the plan was “the best, most practical and most environmentally friendly way to get to LGA.”
The Port Authority believes the current plan will not only encourage people to get out of their cars, but also give travelers and LGA employees a more direct and efficient way to get to the airport. A Better Way to LGA, a coalition of Queens businesses, previously told QNS that the plan “creates good-paying union jobs, and won’t tear our neighbors from their homes.”
Although some Queens elected officials who represent the northwestern side of the borough have addressed Gov. Cuomo’s AirTrain plan when it was first introduced in 2015, most of them haven’t officially stated what they think of the current plan for the project.
In January, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), which conducted the review of the plan as well as 46 alternatives, in which she questioned its evaluation of the current plan despite the many alternatives brought up by the community and the study’s note that 255 out of 414 comments were in opposition to that route.
A spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez and a Port Authority spokesperson said they have not received a response from the FAA.
At an FAA meeting that same month, FAA Regional Environmental Program Manager Andrew Brooks pointed out that infrastructure challenges like creating new tunnels or elevated tracks will escalates the price tag, which was one reason they thought other alternatives wouldn’t work.
A Port Authority spokesperson told QNS that “the FAA will hold more public information sessions on the environmental review of the AirTrain project later this year and Port Authority staff will continue to attend local community meetings to update residents and answer questions about the airport redevelopment project. ”
Updated at 4:50 p.m.