While Governor Andrew Cuomo faces multiple probes into his conduct and widespread calls for his resignation or impeachment, his pet project in Queens is quietly moving forward.
Cuomo’s proposed $2 billion LaGuardia AirTrain project has cleared another hurdle after the Federal Aviation Administration released its Final Environmental Impact Statement including the latest details on a host of community benefits which is the next to last step in the federal review process.
The final step comes in the spring with the FAA release of its Record of Decision, after which construction can begin on the 1.5-mile transportation system linking the airport with Willets Point and its connections to the No. 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington branch.
“This milestone represents a very important step forward in building a rapid, reliable and sustainable rail mass transit link to the airport,” a Port Authority spokesperson said. “We appreciate the time and effort the FAA has put into its exhaustive review of the project, yielding a final EIS of 600 pages with 25,000 pages of supporting appendices.”
The EIS itemizes many of the community benefits that will become part of the project to address its many impacts and respond to issues raised by community members. Benefits include economic activity including the creation of 3,000 construction jobs and $500 million in contracting opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses as well as contracting opportunities for other Queens-based businesses. The project will invest in workforce development, educational opportunities and community events.
“In addition, in direct response to public comment and community recommendations, the project now includes more than $50 million in commitments to transformational investments in the Flushing Bay Promenade and other local parks,” the spokesperson added. “These investments include funding for long-term operation and maintenance of the Promenade, as particularly requested by the community, as well as capital improvements.”
While critics of the project remain opposed — including the environmental organization Guardians of Flushing Bay, which called the LaGuardia AirTrain an unnecessary boondoggle” and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who lamented the Port Authority’s lack of alternative routes — the Port Authority points to widespread support for the plan.
“The AirTrain LGA project received strong support from a range of stakeholders and organizations, from local community leaders to former transportation officials to a range of civic, business and labor organizations,” the PA spokesperson said. “Based on the final EIS, more than 75 percent of all the comments filed supported the project moving forward and, of those who expressed an opinion in support of or opposed to the project during the FAA’s public comment process, more than 90 percent supported the project.”