This week, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that authorizes the state to acquire through eminent domain the property needed to build the LaGuardia AirTrain. The bill passed the Assembly and State Senate last week before session ended.
According to reports, the proposed two-mile corridor does not go through private property, and eminent domain would only be needed on land that is controlled by city or state agencies.
Last week, LaGuardia Airport general manager Lysa Scully spoke about the importance of the AirTrain at a transit panel hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Coincidentally, the event was hosted at Citi Field, across the street from the Willets Point station.
“If we can build the AirTrain and provide that access and reduce congestion and speed travel times, we’re looking at a 30-minute guarantee from Midtown Manhattan to LaGuardia Airport,” Scully said.
She noted that LaGuardia Airport is just eight miles from Manhattan, and 55 percent of their customers come from the borough. But unlike John F. Kennedy or Newark airports, LaGuardia doesn’t have rail access.
In 2015, Cuomo assembled an advisory panel, which recommended, among other items, an assessment of the feasibility of an AirTrain. In the next few months, the Port Authority will work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on an environmental impact statement to look at alignments, feasibility, ridership and other elements.
The $2 billion AirTrain would connect passengers to both the Long Island Rail Road and the 7 train at Willets Point.
LaGuardia is currently undergoing an $8 billion transformation, which Scully said would be complimented by rail transit infrastructure.
“It’s [about] getting more cars off the road so we can smooth the travel of those who need to get to work and others,” Scully said.
But local residents near the airport are not thrilled about the project. Last week, members of the East Elmhurst Corona Alliance and the Ditmars Boulevard Block Association protested the plan, and pledged to fight the AirTrain.
Frank Taylor, president of the Ditmars Boulevard Block Association and an East Elmhurst resident since 1956, said he can’t see an upside of the project for their community.
“I believe this project will negatively impact our quality of life for a service that is not needed,” he said in a statement. “I also call to question the larger taxpayer investment with no economic upside for our community or the state.”
David Aiken, a spokesperson for the East Elmhurst Corona Alliance, said the neighborhood instead needs permanent affordable housing, better sanitation services and an MTA system that works .
“Why spend billions of dollars on something that does not deal with the immediate needs and issues our community faces?” he asked.