Transit town hall highlights LaGuardia access and environmental concerns

LaGuardia Airport’s new $4 billion Terminal B (Photo courtesy of Port Authority)

State Senator Jessica Ramos held a town hall at the World’s Fair Marina in Corona on Tuesday, March 22, to primarily discuss transit access to LaGuardia Airport. 

Months after Governor Kathy Hochul stopped the proposal to build the $2.1 billion AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport, officials, including Ramos, have been brainstorming alternative transit options. Ramos said that she never disagreed with the premise of the AirTrain. 

“LaGuardia Airport needs better access, but we cannot ignore the community that lives around the airport,” Ramos said. 

A Port Authority representative said that they are evaluating 14 different modes of transportation to access LaGuardia, one of which is a ferry option that Queens Borough President Donovan Richards recently supported. Ramos said she will not endorse any options until she hears from community feedback. 

The ferry would stop would connect Manhattan’s East Side with the ferry landings in Bowery Bay or Flushing Bay. This option supports the state’s goals to reduce the number of cars on the road. 

“It is a goal to reduce car traffic on the roads surrounding the airport,” said Hersh Parekh, the director of government and community relations for Port Authority. “That is a benefit to people on the Grand Central Parkway to get elsewhere, but also to the East Elmhurst community which also is impacted by traffic when there is heavy congestion at the airport.”

One resident said that the state caring about the environment is a “joke” since they expanded the airport which he argues contributes to the high asthma rates in the surrounding neighborhoods.

“This area is called ‘Asthma Alley.’ Why? Because of the airport,” the resident said. “You care about the environment? To me, that’s a joke. Do you think everyone here is stupid?”

Another resident and Queens transit organizer agreed, saying the state should be investing in a high-speed rail and ensuring dedicated bus lanes to limit traffic. 

“Given the urgency of the climate crisis, we really should be developing [a] long-term plan to phase down the operations of the airport as we develop high-speed rail,” the resident said. “That being said we do urgently need to reduce car usage to get to the airport in the meantime, which makes dedicated bus lanes a real no-brainer.”

Other representatives from MTA also came to the meeting to discuss the Interborough Express, which would also help expand transit access to LaGuardia, connecting Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to Jackson Heights. MTA representatives said that the project is in very early phases considering bus rapid transit, light rail or a Long Island Rail Road-style train.