Candidates for the 31st Council District were campaigning by land, air and water on July 11 in a forum on the environment and sustainability hosted by the Eastern Queens Alliance and the New York League of Conservation Voters.
Topics included litter, air and noise pollution related to John F. Kennedy International Airport, and the flooding in many areas of Southeast Queens that results from any heavy or sustained rain.
Candidates included Democrats Herbert Binger, Michael Duncan and incumbent Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and Republican Scherie Murray.
The forum took place at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on 147th Avenue in Rosedale. The moderators were EQA Chairwoman Barbara Brown and Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.
Many in the region fear the Port Authority’s plans to cull up to 700 trees in Idlewild Park is an opening gambit by the Port Authority in an effort to relocate one of its runways, thus bringing large aircraft in lower over residential neighborhoods that already suffer from too much noise.
Binger said he would reduce air traffic by diverting freight and cargo flights to the old Floyd Bennett Field.
He did not elaborate on how he would do so with the site now a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
Duncan said he would lobby the rest of the Council to negotiate a redistribution of flights into and out of the airport to make sure no one neighborhood carried an unfair burden.
Murray also said governmental and community pressure can get results, saying said the removal of trees would eliminate a visual, noise and pollution barrier in the park.
Richards said a more direct way to curb noise is to make the PA apply for so-called airport improvement grants, money allotted by the federal government to do things like noiseproof schools and other buildings near airports.
Richards and Binger said they would work in the Council to immediately resume pumping of the old Jamaica Water Service wells to help alleviate flooding by groundwater. Duncan and Murray agreed that was important, but both said they place a higher priority on continuing city projects to improve the flow of watercourses that flow through Springfield Park from the north.
All also support restarting rail service between the Rockaways and the mainland along the old Rockaway Beach rail line right of way, as well as increasing ferry service to and from the peninsula.
As for dealing with storms like Hurricane Sandy that devastated several neighborhoods in the district, Richards said preparedness must be the city’s aim, and advocated the construction of things like surge barriers.
“We can’t wait,” Binger said. “The next storm is coming soon. It’s not going to be another 100 years.”