One of the more vocal opponents of the proposed LaGuardia Airport AirTrain project is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to revise its draft environmental impact statement and submit it for a second round of public comment.
Guardians of Flushing Bay, in an eight-page letter submitted by its program coordinator, Rebecca Pryor, cited a handful of instances in which the organization believes the draft study is insufficient or has been improperly conducted. The deadline for public input was Oct. 20.
Pryor sent the Chronicle a copy of her letter by email that day, along with a 30-page critique of the draft from the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic in White Plains.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates LaGuardia, is looking to build an AirTrain loop linking the airport and what would be a new facility between the No. 7 subway station at Mets-Willets Point and the Long Island Rail Road station just north of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The aim is to speed up travel time between the airport and both Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.
The track would run just inside the boundary of the Flushing Promenade, a park with a boat marina on Flushing Bay.
Critics, including environmental groups, residents and groups such as the Ditmars Boulevard Block Association, oppose the move. They believe the same improvements could be made at less cost and less disruption by means such as improving dedicated bus service between the airport and Manhattan.
“Guardians of Flushing Bay believes that the proposed LGA AirTrain is an ill-conceived transportation project that alienates parkland, crowds overburdened transit infrastructure and is an irresponsible use of federal stimulus funds,” Pryor wrote.
“The Flushing Bay parkland, which is relied upon by the surrounding communities, is effectively being treated as a sacrifice zone for massive infrastructure and ongoing congestion,” she continued. “We are calling on you, the FAA, to adequately recognize the concerns of the local community members and water users from the tri-state area who rely on the parkland, views of the bay and enjoyment of the waterfront.”
Benefits being touted by the Port Authority include a projected reduction in automobile traffic and the resulting pollution in the East Elmhurst and Corona neighborhoods, as well as the business and employment opportunities both in the construction process and after its completion.
The PA is committing to improvements along the entire 1.4-mile Promenade, including enhanced access and new amenities as part of the offset for the loss of some parkland. Those are projected to include upgrades to the walkways, railings and lighting; replacement trees; new landscaping; and repairs to the bulkhead/seawall.
The Pace comments on page 7 say the FAA “conducted a legally inadequate alternatives analysis by artificially narrowing the pool of potential alternatives, ignoring relevant information, and prematurely eliminating options that partially meet the project’s goal.”
On page 17 Pace Environmental Litigtion Clinic alleges that the DEIS “ignores significant potential impacts, including 7 train ridership.” On page 19 it calls the proposed mitigation for condemning 35.5 acres of parkland “inadequately considered and woefully insufficient.” It also says that the plan does not comply with parkland alienation requirements of the federal Department of Transportation Act of 1966
The FAA is set to make the final EIS available in the first quarter of 2021 and issue a final decision before the end of June.
The compete draft EIS or an executive summary can be read or downloaded online at lgaaccesseis.com.