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Neighbor to Neighbor: Airport communities don’t want fairy tales

They told the people that they had seen the open space and thought it was a shame not to use it for something. The people said they liked it as it was. The important people said, "Some of it is good land. Some or the land is nothing but an old swamp." The people listened. The important people said, "We have a plan to give you something better. We will fill in some of that old swamp for you."

The people asked, "If you fill in the swamp where the birds and the animals live, where will they go?"

The important people replied, "Don't worry about them. We'll give you something better than these little birds. We'll build airports for you and let you see great big planes flying around in the sky."

"We like the space the way it is," the people said. "We like seeing the birds flying silently in the sky." The important people laughed and said, "Silly people, don't you worry at all. You won't hear any plane noises because they will take off and land over the water. You'll never even notice that the airports are there."

If that wasn't a fairy tale, I've never heard one! Now the people who live here want better assurances than a smile and a quick look at some architectural rendering. Several emergency meetings about the proposed air cargo facilities near JFK International Airport have indicated that property owners living nearby are going to do their utmost to get assurance that the proposal is not only within the law," but is in the best interest of all concerned.

At each meeting so far, there have been endless questions that the proponents could not answer. There have been suggestions made about previously built facilities, now in some questionable use or abandoned, that may show that a more cost-effective and appropriate effort should be considered as an alternative.

I applaud the communities for uniting to protect the wetlands (formerly called "the old swamps"), for they are a treasure, not only for this, but for future generations. The community can foresee, with infringement into what is now parkland, future bits and pieces being chewed off an important building here, a new road there. Pretty soon, if that happens, all that will be green will be the profit in someone's pockets, most likely who doesn't even live anywhere near Queens.

The community has been tricked too many times before. Our ears and our lungs have been forced to adapt to fumes from unregulated toxins and noises from airports and parkways. It is, I believe, an absolute miracle that our area has been spared some kind of major airline tragedy (although we've come close). But it has not been spared major car accidents on our roadways. This too, is a concern with the anticipated increased volume or heavy trucking that, in all probability, will encroach on areas that should be off-limits.

What we want and need is better understanding and proof. What we don't want is to be told, "This is what you're going to get - like it or not!" We are not trying to be Luddites. We are trying to be well-informed property owners with sincere questions about what will be the best thing.

We feel the environmental impact study that was done, although (as we were told) is "within the law," is inadequate.

There are still too many important consequences to consider.

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