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Plan to allow larger planes and longer flights to use LaGuardia hits turbulence

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Flushing resident Susan Carroll saw signs beginning last year that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would try and drop the perimeter rule at LaGuardia Airport.

State Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) was so alarmed by the notion that he fired off a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August warning that any change would have a “detrimental impact” on communities that are already suffering from increased air traffic over the last few years.

So when the Port Authority admitted last week that it was considering lifting the regulation that was formalized in 1984 to limit the size of planes using the airfield, they were not caught off guard.

“Nothing really surprises me at LaGuardia anymore,” said Carroll, a representative on the New York Community Aviation Roundtable. “We are worried that the mechanisms that are in place to make life more liveable around here are falling by the wayside.”

Carroll, who also sits on the Community Board 7 Aviation Committee, said the industry has become such an economic engine for the borough that Queens is on the verge of having two international airports within 10 miles of each other.

Braunstein’s letter to the governor, which was co-signed by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst), Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing), Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and others, explained what communities around the airport would face if the perimeter rule was shelved.

“Allowing for flights longer than 1,500 miles will result in heavier planes departing from LaGuardia Airport because of the extra fuel reserves needed for those flights,” Braunstein wrote. “Our research indicates that heavier planes take longer to reach higher altitudes, and therefore are closer to the ground for a longer time during departure. This may result in an increase in airplane noise for the neighborhoods under those flight paths.”

Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye made the startling admission following the Feb. 18 Board of Commissioners decision to delay a vote on the massive reconstruction of LaGuardia Airport until next month. The cost of the redesign has grown from $4 billion to $4.2 billion, according to the board resolutions.

“There are a myriad issues involved, and the board should be entitled to more time to review the resolutions,” Port Authority Chairman John Degnan said.

Bypassing the perimeter rule would help cover the ballooning costs of the reconstruction by increasing customer traffic on more expensive flights. Longer flights translate to larger and noisier planes.

“It’s a possibility. A study’s being done,” Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye said. “One thing we’ve assured the public is that we will do a public comment period which will be extensive. Members of the public (and) industry players will be able to comment.”

State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), who also co-signed the Braunstein letter, said, “I’d file that under the ridiculous ideas claim. You’re going to have a lot of people troubled, including me.”

Stavisky explained that the board for the Port Authority is “controlled” by the state Senate. She serves on both the Senate’s Transportation Committee and the Finance Committee.

“And we always ask a lot of questions,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), the author of The Quiet Skies Act legislation that aims to improve the quality of life for communities heavily affected by aircraft noise pollution, is watching what develops.

“We cannot ignore the potential impact that ending the perimeter rule can have on the already burdened communities that surround LaGuardia,” Crowley said. “As the Port Authority continues to study the issue, I urge them to consider, first and foremost, the effects that lifting the rule could have on the health of residents that for too long have had to put up with excessive noise and air pollution.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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