There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding the LaGuardia AirTrain project since its early design days. Although there has always been community and political opposition, the FAA green-lighted the project after an exhaustive review of impacts and alternatives.
On September 20th, charges were filed in Queens court alleging the LaGuardia AirTrain $2.1 Billion transportation project was approved based on a “cherry-picked” environmental review by the FAA and ignored possible alternatives. The plaintiffs wanted the court to immediately halt the project.
The allegations are nothing new, the FAA reviewed the decision extensively and came to the same determination, the LGA AirTrain is the best solution to provide transportation from LGA airport to NYC.
Vocal critic, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, suggest that the route would encourage driving instead of transit.
The lawsuit filed in federal court by Riverkeeper, Guardians of Flushing Bay, and the Ditmars Boulevard Block Association accuses the Federal Aviation Administration of “creating eight arbitrary screening criteria to preempt consideration of 45 transit alternatives,” in order to speed up approval of the approved route at Former Governor Cuomo’s request. According to the suit, alternatives like ferries, buses or otherwise utilizing existing mass transit were never considered.
The Pro-AirTrain coalition of local business leaders, “A Better Way to LGA”, continues to praise the project.
“During the process, the FAA received more than 4,200 comments on the project from Queens and across the region, with 80 percent in favor of AirTrain LGA,” said the statement signed by heads of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, General Contractors Association, New York Building Congress and Association for Better New York.
“The project will create 3,000 union construction jobs, $500 million in contracting opportunities for MWBEs and local businesses, and target local residents for new, permanent operations and maintenance jobs. AirTrain LGA is a win for travelers, small businesses, the environment, and our local communities.”
Looks like the court action may not be necessary. The latest update is that Gov. Kathy Hochul has halted the project altogether. She has that authority as NYS Governor.
On Oct. 12, the Port Authority placed the plans for the AirTrain officially on hold by deciding to “pause further action” on the project. A representative from PANYNJ stated, “At Governor Hochul’s request, the Port Authority is undertaking a thorough review of potential alternative mass transit options to LaGuardia Airport. The agency will work in close consultation with independent experts and stakeholders, and will complete its work as expeditiously as possible, consistent with the need for the review to be thorough and rigorous.”
Though Gov. Hochul won this battle, the war continues. Any new proposal will still have to be approved by the FAA. There is also the court case, which could still be settled or dismissed as moot if a new arrangement satisfies the plaintiffs.