The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Board of Commissioners approved a $355 million project to revamp Runway 13L-31R at John F. Kennedy International Airport and add a high-speed taxiway, part of a package of state-of-good-repair and system-enhancing projects to improve airport travel. Local residents are worried, however.
“I think that we’re in for quite a ride with the number of planes coming over our communities,” said Malvernite Elaine Miller, co-chairwoman of the advocacy group Plane Sense 4 Long Island. “We understand that the airport needs to upgrade its runway; nobody’s disregarding that. The point of the matter is, certain communities are the ones that are getting hit day in and day out.”
The 10,000-foot-long runway, which runs east to west on the airport’s north side and handles almost half of JFK’s arriving planes, will be rebuilt with concrete rather than asphalt for more long-term durability. The project is scheduled to begin next April, and to be completed by November.
“Runway rehabilitation is an essential part of the Port Authority’s state-of-good-repair initiatives at its airports and our continuing efforts to ensure world-class operations,’’ said Kevin O’Toole, the Port Authority’s chairman, in a news release. “This infrastructure investment will enhance the efficiency of aircraft movements on the ground, while the use of concrete will shorten the project’s timetable and increase the lifespan of the runway.”
Because of the project, other runways could see an increase in arrivals and departures of 35 to 70 percent, according to the Port Authority. Residents ex-pressed their concerns during the Port Authority’s public information session at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City on Oct. 17.
Miller’s co-chairwoman, Jana Goldenberg, said that jet noise has long been heard over Nassau County, but never to this extent. “We still have a long fight ahead of us,” Goldenberg said. “The problem is we don’t have enough people fighting the fight.”
Larry Hoppenhauer, executive director of the Town-Village Aircraft Safety & Noise Abatement Committee, said that Nassau County is under-represented in the roundtable discussions between the Port Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration. Hoppenhauer, of Malverne, previously told the Herald that one of his goals was to encourage more involvement on the part of federal officials.
“The Port Authority and the FAA have shown commitment to those meetings, and they’re always willing to share some information,” Hoppenhauer said, “but it seems that it’s been very hard at the roundtable to get people together. I would still like to see all of those lines of communication open up.”
TVASNAC’s jurisdiction includes Atlantic Beach, Cedarhurst, Lawrence, Woodsburgh, East Williston, Floral Park, Garden City, Malverne, New Hyde Park, Stewart Manor and Valley Stream. All are villages.
“We, of course, understand that this work will be a burden on our residents and at times difficult to endure in our day-to-day lives,” Valley Stream Mayor Ed Fare said in a statement. “In light of the enhanced safety that the runway construction is expected to bring, it is an inconvenience that we anticipate will bring needed safety and life-saving improvements to the air-traveling public.”
Hoppenhauer said that JFK’s project is much needed, but he hopes that measures will be taken to limit jet noise.
“It’s a good thing. It’s a safety thing, and I understand that this is for the betterment and improvement of JFK’s airport,” he said. “But I’d like to know what they’re going to do to mitigate the increase in traffic.”
Miller said that for Nassau County residents to have their voices heard, people must push for legislation to reduce jet noise.
“I think that we’re always the forgotten child, and I think that because the airplanes are located in Queens, I think they pay more attention to that,” she said. “However, we get the same amount of air traffic, and at times, worse. It’s very disheartening to us here in Nassau County, because we feel as though there’s nothing that we can do, but we have to keep fighting.”