The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey last Thursday presented a revised plan for Runway 4L/22R at John F. Kennedy International Airport to the Eastern Queens Alliance and an unhappy Rosedale community.
Under its revised plan the 11,351-foot runway would be moved 728 feet closer to Rockaway Boulevard and the neighborhoods that abut JFK.
The community is unhappy with the plan, citing the potential for more noise and air pollution from planes they fear will be closer and lower than ever.
Brian Simon, director of government and community relations for the Port Authority, discussed how previous community objections led to a reassessment of the initial plan.
“You correctly objected to that because you recognized that meant that the aircraft would fly nearly 200 feet lower to the community,” Simon said. “We were looking at removing 800 trees from [Idlewild] park.”
Simon went on to tell the community that under the new proposal aircraft taking off would not fly over the community and those flying over the Rockaways would be slightly higher. He also went on to discuss tree removal.
“No trees will be trimmed or removed in Idlewild Park because of this project,” he said.
Despite Simon’s presentation, the community brought up the issue of the removal of 312 trees from the park that remains in the PA’s plans.
The trees have been identified as being tall enough to present a threat to aviation under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.
“We are not in favor of any tree removal in Idlewild Park; it is a nature preserve,” said Eastern Queens Alliance Chairwoman Barbara Brown. “The trees are helping with flood protection, they act as a sound barrier and help clean the air.”
PA representatives said those trees have to be removed anyway, as they are all viewed as obstructions to the existing runway, and are not associated with the relocation project. They have worked with the FAA and the city Parks Department in determining which trees have to be removed or trimmed.
For every tree removed the Port Authority said it will plant more throughout the park. But Brown pointed out that it is not just about numbers. She said existing trees have established root systems, which help control flooding in a neighborhood that “desperately needs it.”
“We are talking the removal of full-grown trees,” said Brown. “Even if you put three saplings in for every tree you remove you have not replaced the root system.”
Among other concerns brought up by residents were air quality on hot days. Brown stated that her group is working on taking its own air samples in the Rosedale community.
Many in attendance were displeased with the revised plan.
“I think the proposal left out a lot of vital information,” Michael Saraceno said. “They are not telling you that when they move [the threshold] back, the trees need to be cut down. They are lying in my opinion.”
“I think there are a lot of other issues that were not touched upon tonight,” said Brown. “Like the curb cuts on Rockaway Boulevard, like the taxiways that are being widened primarily to bring in larger jets. There are a lot of issues that have not been touched.”