Neighbors fight JFK plan

Map of JFK International Airport showing areas affected by noise pollution, according to some studies. Map courtesy of the Eastern Queens Alliance
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Residents in southeast Queens want to ground the Port Authority’s plan to rehabilitate a runaway at JFK Airport.

They filed court papers claiming that the project to expand the tarmac 730 feet closer toward the 160-acre Idlewild Park should undergo, before any construction begins, a full environmental impact study.

The Federal Aviation Administration approved the plan’s take-off, contending the project will have no significant environmental impact on the area.

But the Eastern Queens Alliance, a federation of civic associations from southeast Queens, differs completely from that finding. The group filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals Second District to ground the expansion of the runaway.

“This project needs an environmental impact study,” said Tamara Mitchell, environmental expert from the alliance. “Noise pollution, air pollution,” she added. “A lot of issues are not being addressed.”

Mitchell, at a roundtable discussion sponsored by Eastern Queens Alliance, updated neighbors on the efforts being made to halt the project to reshape the tarmac.

The Port Authority, which manages JFK International Airport, said the expansion of the runaway is needed to comply with new air safety requirements set by the FAA. The project, which includes widening the runaway from 150 to 200 feet, should be completed before the end of 2015.

Neighbors of the airport are hoping the U.S. Court of Appeals Second District stops the project.

“We are fighting this expansion in court, and we hope the airport has to do an environmental study before anything else,” Mitchell added.

During the forum held last week at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, in Rosedale, residents discussed findings of several studies about air and noise pollution in communities that live in a 6-mile radius of JFK.

“We are just trying to have the communities that live around the airport to be environmentally safe,” said Mitchell, adding that although the FAA monitors airports, “there isn’t an agency that critically keeps an eye on them.”

According to the Eastern Queens Alliance, several studies have shown that living within a 6-mile radius of an airport “you may be at risk of dying prematurely from an environmental carcinogen, such as chemicals associated with airports.” The organization believes that work at the runaway has not began.

Because of the health concerns, including research that suggest there are a number of diseases associated with living near airports, Mitchell and the association are calling for a multi-level research effort that will analyze the effects of air and traffic noise.

“We must find out what the real effects are on community members,” she said.

Reach reporter Juan Soto by email at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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