Oct. 5, 2021 By Allie Griffin
Several Queens lawmakers want Gov. Kathy Hochul to kill the controversial LaGuardia AirTrain project altogether after she announced Monday that she has directed the Port Authority to review other options.
The lawmakers want Hochul to officially slam the lid on the $2 billion plan to build a 1.5-mile rail line from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport — a proposal, and so-called “pet project”, of disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“New Yorkers deserve world-class transportation to world-class airports,” Hochul said in a statement Monday. “I have asked the Port Authority to thoroughly examine alternative mass transit solutions for reducing car traffic and increasing connectivity to LaGuardia Airport.”
Lawmakers, however, want her to clarify if this means she will take the AirTrain plan off the table completely.
“This is great movement in the right direction,” State Sen. Jessica Ramos said on Twitter. “The next step is to define with more clarity what this means in practice.”
Hochul released the statement just hours ahead of a planned press conference during which several legislators denounced the AirTrain plan, which has faced continuous criticism since Cuomo announced it in 2015.
State Senators Ramos, Michael Gianaris, Leroy Comrie, John Liu, Toby Ann Stavisky, along with Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas and a representative from the Queens Borough President Office joined local community groups to call for an immediate withdrawal of the AirTrain plans.
Ramos and Stavisky both called the AirTrain project a “boondoggle” and González-Rojas said it is a “$2 billion vanity project”.
“A review of the LGA #AirTrain project isn’t enough, we need a full halt,” Ramos said. “The $2B can better serve our community by updating our infrastructure and by creating a transportation system that actually serves our neighbors increasing their access to public transit.”
Many New Yorkers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have called the AirTrain route illogical because it would make riders from Manhattan travel past the airport to Willets Point to then backtrack to the airport. The Willets Point station would connect the 7 train and Long Island Railroad with the LaGuardia AirTrain.
Gianaris said it’s not the best option for getting people to and from the airport and added that its price tag has continuously swollen.
“The proposed LGA AirTrain is four times over-budget and not the best option for increasing airport access,” Gianaris said. “We need a community-centered plan that gets people out of cars, on to mass transit, and to and from LGA faster. Reliable transit is possible — but this plan is NOT it.”
Several critics of the plan 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 residents who live close by.
González-Rojas expressed some of these same concerns.
“The environmental and economic costs of the AirTrain project are too high and have had no transparency,” González-Rojas said. “Our communities are better served seeing this kind of investment improving our transit system and meeting other needs. @GovKathyHochul the plan should be halted.”
Community groups, environmental activists, watchdogs and transportation advocates also joined the press conference to call on Hochul to halt the plans.
Watchdog group Reinvent Albany, A Sensible Way to LGA Coalition, Riverkeeper, Guardians of Flushing Bay, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Riders Alliance all participated in the press conference.
The project, however, does have some longtime supporters such as the Queens Chamber of Commerce and Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry.
“To do nothing by blocking LaGuardia AirTrain, as some of my colleagues in elected office now want, means that we will have no opportunity for success and more and more cars on the roads and in and out of our community for generations to come,” Aubry told the New York Post.