Port Authority officials last week apologized to residents of Southeast Queens for bypassing them during the application process to move a runway more than 700 feet closer to populated areas outside John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The uncharacteristic gesture took place at a meeting of the Eastern Queens Alliance on Oct. 4 at which the PA also reopened the public comment period for an additional month after residents and civic groups in Southeast Queens decried a lack of public notice.
“Government isn’t always perfect,” Brian Simon, director of government and community affairs at the PA, told a crowd of more than 200 at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Rosedale. “We could do a better job. And we’re going to make that happen. Your views will be included.”
The PA wants to move Runway 4L-22R toward Rockaway Boulevard to the north, while adding a 1,000-foot long, 500-foot wide safety zone on the northern end. The runway would be widened by 150 to 200 feet, while the operational length would remain at 11,351 feet.
The work is primarily to accommodate the new, larger Airbus A380 aircraft. PA officials want to have the project approved and the work done before a federal deadline of 2015.
“And ‘to the north’ means closer to us,” said Barbara Brown, president of the EQA.
And ‘closer to us,’ residents fear, means more, larger and noisier passenger jets coming lower and lower over their homes.
“And nobody knew about it,” Brown said.
Residents of Rosedale, Laurelton and other neighborhoods spoke at the meeting, saying the PA’s choice for posting a public notice for comment — in New York City editions of Newsday — may have met legal requirements but was not satisfactory for informing them of a project with potential to increase noise and pollution in the area.
Simon said the PA has reopened the public comment period through Nov. 1 to accommodate Queens residents, and that all their comments must be included in the final report to the Federeal Aviation Administration, including how each concern will be addressed, or why the PA believes it should not be a concern.
“The comment period that you were supposed to have between May and June you will have now,” Simon said.
Edward Knoesel, the PA’s manager of environmental services in the aviation division, said the agency’s draft environmental assessment determined that any noise increase within the affected area would be 0.7 decibels.
He said the change is not detectable by the human ear and is less than half the 1.5 decibels that federal regulations require for further environmental impact studies.
Gregory Holder of Rosedale, a retired airport worker, wasn’t impressed.
“You talk about noise increments, and not about whether the current levels are tolerable or not,” Holder said. He added that the PA’s contention that closer landing approaches would not have an environmental impact “just defies logic.”
While numerous residents and civic groups called on the PA to conduct a full-scale environmental impact study, James Steven, manager of physical plant and redevelopment at JFK, said it was not required because the regulations do not label the changes drastic enough.
“It is not considered a new runway,” he said. “We’re moving a runway. We’re not lengthening the runway.”
He also said the end of the relocated runway still would be slightly over 1,000 feet from the curb line on Rockaway Boulevard.
But many residents also said during the three-hour meeting that they do not believe their input on the proposed $500 million project will have any sway with the PA or the FAA, which must approve the project if it is to be completed before the federal 2015 deadline.
“I think this community is in very serious trouble,” said Dwight Johnson of Laurelton. “This is a $500 million project. We’re not going to change any minds with a few questions here tonight.”
But PA officials said the final report on the proposal, which will include all comments received from Queens residents and organizations, must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Written comments can be submitted to The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 225 Park Ave. South, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10003.