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Court throws out suit to block LGA flights

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A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani against the U.S. Department of Transportation in an attempt to block hundreds of flights that left LaGuardia Airport the nation’s leader in air delays.

Shulman said she believed the decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week was wrong, but the borough president and her attorney, Hugh Weinberg, said they planned to study the decision before deciding on the next move.

“We feel the decision by the court was a wrong one,” Shulman said. “We believe an environmental impact study is vital because of the tremendous increase of flights at LaGuardia.”

The federal court in Manhattan decided that the U.S. Department of Transportation, of which the Federal Aviation Administration is a part, could approve new flights at LaGuardia Airport without an environmental impact study.

“We conclude that no environmental review was required and that the secretary of transportation has complied with the statute,” the judges wrote in their decision.

Airlines scheduled more than 600 new flights at LaGuardia within weeks of passage of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation and Investment Act for the 21st Century, popularly known as Air-21, in April 2000. The law permits an unlimited number of flights by small jets carrying no more than 70 passengers to underserved airports where lack of competition has resulted in what passengers saw as exorbitant fares.

The sudden addition of new flights, with such destinations as Fayetteville, Ark., Traverse City, Mich., and Manchester, Vt., created near chaos at LaGuardia, which accounted for nearly a quarter of all flight delays in the nation toward the end of 2000.

In early October 2000, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey imposed a moratorium on new flights and in December the Federal Aviation Administration held a lottery for departure and arrival slots at LaGuardia, cutting the daily flight total from a high of more than 1,400 to about 1,250.

The slot lottery system was due to expire next month, but the FAA has now extended it to Oct. 26, 2002 pending a permanent way to deal with the problem of too many flights at too small an airport.

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

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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