The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday approved the environmental review of the proposed AirTrain project from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport.
The approval appears to clear the way for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to build the elevated rail line.
The PA, backed by Gov. Cuomo, has sought to construct the system in order to shorten travel times between LaGuardia and Manhattan.
The proposal has been fought by environmental advocates and numerous residents in the East Elmhurst area.
Supporting construction could begin as early as this summer. The 127-page decision can be read and downloaded at
“The new LaGuardia Airport — the first new airport in the United States in over 25 years and the front door to New York — deserves a reliable, efficient, and affordable transit connector worthy of its destination,” Cuomo said in a statement posted on his official website. “With the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval today of the LaGuardia AirTrain, that’s exactly what New Yorkers will get.”
In a statement from the PA, Executive Director Rick Cotton said the ruling clears the way to provide a reliable, predictable and non-polluting rail link to the airport.
“LaGuardia Airport is the only major airport on the East Coast without a rail mass transit link, and it is way past time for that embarrassment to end.”
Critics have argued that the PA and federal authorities did not consider less intrusive alternatives, such as improving bus service or extending the existing N/W elevated subway tracks from their terminus at 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria.
They contend the AirTrain will cause irreparable harm to the Malcolm X Promenade; the waterfront park along Flushing Bay; and the neighborhood in general.
Among the harshest critics of the plan have been the organizations Riverkeeper and Guardians of Flushing Bay. Rebecca Pryor, program coordinator for both organizations, told the Chronicle on Tuesday that they are reviewing the FAA’s ruling.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say that alternatives still have not been properly considered,” Pryor said. “And the record of decision still does not address many of the concerns we have raised all along.”
The PA is committing — and the FAA is requiring — more than $50 million of investment in upgrading the Promenade.
Cuomo said that as the state emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, the AirTrain represents “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in a resilient, transformative, and interconnected future ...”
Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, which supports and has promoted the project, agreed.
“As we emerge from Covid, this will bring 4,000 jobs; 3,000 in the construction industry,” Grech said in a telephone interview. “It also brings half a billion dollars in contracts for [minority- and women-owned business enterprises].”
Grech also said more than 4,200 people commented on the proposal during hearings.
“Eighty percent of those comments were positive,” he said.