A recent report from the Federal Aviation Administration has confirmed what interested observers already knew — residents living near LaGuardia Airport have serious concerns about the potential health, environmental and aesthetic impacts that a proposed AirTrain could unleash.
The Port Authority, in an effort to speed up travel time between LaGuardia and both Midtown and Downtown Manhattan, is planning to spend $2 billion or more on an elevated rail line that would connect with the Long Island Rail Road and the No 7 subway line at Mets/Willets Point.
The preferred route would take the tracks overland just inside the Flushing Promenade, a park situated between the Grand Central Parkway and Flushing Bay.
The 2,430-page report includes names of all residents and government officials who participated and all comments and correspondence received during the public comment period following meetings that were held last June 5 and 6. It also addressed a “people’s hearing” at the World’s Fair Marina that was hosted by groups who are opposed to the AirTrain.
Of approximately 175 comments regarding the impact on local resources, there were multiple comments expressing concern that the elevated structure would impact use of the Promenade and Flushing Bay.
Comments included that removing an existing path would limit pedestrian access; and that it would reduce the overall amount of available park space in an area that already is considered lacking in green space.
Still others believe an airtrain and the construction process could hamper ongoing efforts to clean up Flushing Bay. Some fear it could exacerbate already poor air quality conditions related to the airport, while others pointed out that the potential reduction in the number of cars heading to and from the airport could actually improve air quality.
Among suggested alternatives were extending the N/W subway line, which right now terminates in Astoria.
Others suggested improved bus service, including a dedicated bus lane and bus priority at traffic lights. Proponents of bus service stated it is a less expensive and more flexible alternative. Still others suggested ferry service and in a few cases, leaving all with the status quo. The hearings also included input from residents whose homes have been damaged by construction from the ongoing rebuild of the airport who believe that driving the necessary piles and associated work would cause even more damage.
Days after the report came out, the group A Better Way to LaGuardia released the results of a survey in which it said 74 percent of the respondents said they would use the AirTrain for travel between the airport and Manhattan.
Seventy percent of those who responded said they take cars to LaGuardia. While an opponent of the AirTrain told the Chronicle the survey questions appeared to be leading, Thomas Grech, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce and co-chairman of A Better Way to LaGuardia, said in a statement from the group that its findings are illustrative.
“These findings make clear what we in Queens have been saying for some time: an AirTrain at LaGuardia Airport will benefit travelers and our environment,” he said. “The high numbers for demand for AirTrain LGA will increase even further as the project comes to fruition.”