July 20, 2021 By Allie Griffin
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the state’s $2 billion plan to build an AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport Tuesday.
Its approval — which was previously delayed — paves the way for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to begin construction of the 1.5 mile rail line linking LaGuardia Airport to the 7 train and Long Island Rail Road at Willets Point.
The FAA approved the plan, first proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2015, despite opposition from many Queens residents and elected officials.
Several local lawmakers, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and State Sen. Jessica Ramos, have been critical of the project.
Ramos fired off a tweet this afternoon following the FAA’s approval.
“This is a huge slap in the face by @NYGovCuomo to the residents of East Elmhurst,” Ramos said. “COVID has already taken a devastating toll on our neighbors. The last thing we need is a multi-billion dollar vanity project that will further affect the health & well-being of our communities.”
Ocasio-Cortez has been an outspoken critic of the project, often questioning the route the train will take. She says that the route is illogical — making riders from Manhattan travel past the airport to Willets Point to then backtrack to the airport.
Several critics are also concerned about the environmental impact it will have on the nearby Flushing Bay and say that it will reduce the quality of life for nearby residents. Others say that the project will lead to overcrowding on the 7 train.
However, Cuomo celebrated the approval.
“The new LaGuardia Airport—the first new airport in the United States in over 25 years and the front door to New York—deserves a reliable, efficient, and affordable transit connector worthy of its destination,” Cuomo said in a statement. “With the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval today of the LaGuardia AirTrain, that’s exactly what New Yorkers will get.”
The Queens Chamber of Commerce, which has long supported the AirTrain project, also applauded the FAA’s decision.
“The Queens Chamber of Commerce is delighted that the Federal Aviation Administration has approved The LaGuardia AirTrain, a project that will be a boon to Queens’ business community and our entire region,” said the Chamber President and CEO Tom Grech.
Early construction, such as utility work, for the AirTrain was expected to begin last month, but was delayed until the FAA issued a decision. The majority of the construction work is not slated to begin until April 2022.