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U.S. reps fight rise in La Guardia flights

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Three members of Congress whose constituents endure chronic noise pollution from Queens airports are sponsoring legislation to extend limits on flights at LaGuardia Airport for another year if no solution to the overcrowded runways is found by September.

U.S. Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) said their proposed Airport Congestion Relief Act would stave off what they called “another surge in air traffic” at the nation's most jammed airport.

They appeared Tuesday at the Marine Air Terminal of LaGuardia Airport, which was responsible for more than 28 percent of the flight delays across the country late last year.

A Federal Aviation Administration-run lottery in December cut back drastically on the number of flights at LaGuardia, which greatly reduced delays caused by heavy air traffic. But the FAA limit on flights is due to expire Sept. 15.

“Although studies are underway, there is no assurance that a solution will be implemented before Sept. 15 in which case, LaGuardia will experience another surge in air traffic,” McCarthy said.

“This legislation calls for a continuation of a study by the secretary of transportation on solutions needed to address air traffic concerns at LaGuardia Airport until Sept. 30, 2002 if a plan is not reached by Sept. 15, 2001. It also requires the transportation secretary to submit a report to Congress on the results of the study,” McCarthy said.

She said the proposed legislation would benefit air travelers as well as residents who live near LaGuardia Airport.

“Every day in my office, I hear from constituents on the noise, pollution and environmental concerns caused by so many flights in and out of LaGuardia,” said McCarthy, whose congressional district lies beneath flight paths in western Nassau County.

“The FAA said it couldn’t be done when I, along with Rep. McCarthy asked them to limit flights at LaGuardia,” said Crowley.

“Now that caps are in place, we have seen less flights landing at LaGuardia and less delays on the ground and pollution in the air,” he said. “Our legislation will keep these regulations in place until 2002 to continue to improve the quality of life for residents of Queens.”

McCarthy said measures to reduce flights are not limited just to helping the people of Queens. She said the three members of Congress believed they had “good bipartisan support” for passage of the measure in Congress.

McCarthy said the legislation “concerns people throughout much of the United States,” McCarthy said. “People cannot take off in a timely manner from places such as Atlanta and Kansas City because of congestion at LaGuardia means they cannot land here.”

The delays at LaGuardia worsened quickly in the latter half of 2000 after Congress approved legislation known as Air-21, which allows unlimited numbers of what are termed regional flights. Such flights involve planes with 70 or fewer seats and are supposed to be destined for underserved airports where lack of competition had long meant exorbitant fares.

Airlines immediately announced scores of new such flights with the result that as many as 300 new takeoffs and landings brought near-gridlock conditions at LaGuardia. The airport accounted for more than 28 percent all flight delays in the United States last year, according to the FAA.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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