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Feds install Doppler Radar to detect weather at JFK

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The Federal Aviation Administration has installed a Doppler Radar system atop a controversial tower to detect adverse weather such as wind shear that caused a jetliner crash at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1975.

The FAA's Eastern Region headquarters said the radar, located at Floyd Bennett Field in the Gateway National Recreation area, is designed to warn of turbulent weather and protect planes landing and taking off at Kennedy.

The Doppler radar is the 45th such device placed at or near airports throughout the United States since such installations began nearly a decade ago. The need for such a warning system was cited by government officials when an Eastern Airlines Boeing 727 jetliner crashed on its landing approach from New Orleans on June 24, 1975. Investigators said wind shear or the sudden shifting of wind direction was the cause of the crash, which killed 113 passengers and crew members.

The fight against the tower by environmentalist and community organizations in Queens and Brooklyn went back at least four years with U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) leading many of the protests.

The White House under the Clinton administration attempted to help bring a settlement to the dispute between two federal agencies over the proposed construction of the 119-foot tower.

Although the FAA said the tower was essential for safety, the Department of Interior contended its location is improper, predicting that it would emit microwaves and create an unfavorable environment for bird watchers, picnickers, schoolchildren on nature outings and other visitors to the park and also would endanger wildlife.

The Gateway National Recreation Area, at the west end of the Rockaway peninsula, provides a habitat for more than 300 species of birds and includes recreational fields and the largest community garden in New York City. Floyd Bennett Field, at the southern edge of Brooklyn, is to the north of the preserve.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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