AOC joins in fight against Cuomo’s $2B LaGuardia AirTrain project

The Queens congresswoman demands FAA explain why subway extension, other alternatives aren’t better

TRD New York /
Jan.January 14, 2020 09:30 AM
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Governor Andrew Cuomo (inset) and a rendering of LaGuardia's AirTrain (Credit: Getty Images, ANewLGA)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Governor Andrew Cuomo (inset) and a rendering of LaGuardia’s AirTrain (Credit: Getty Images, ANewLGA)

Queens residents near Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed LaGuardia AirTrain route now have an important ally in their fight to stop the project: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The freshman Democrat with the huge social-media profile is demanding the Federal Aviation Administration explain why alternative ways to get travelers between LaGuardia Airport and Manhattan are not preferable to the $2 billion AirTrain project, according to the New York Times.

Ocasio-Cortez asked the FAA in a letter last week to reveal why — given public comments about the project’s cost, impact and convenience — it rejected options including extending the N subway line through Astoria to the airport. Community opposition helped kill that very idea decades ago.

Other alternatives Ocasio-Cortez raised included speeding up the Q70 bus service that links LaGuardia to the subway system, running ferries and building an AirTrain to Woodside’s Long Island Rail Road station instead of its Willets Point stop, as the Cuomo wants.

In all, 46 alternatives were considered, but the FAA did not initially say why those were dismissed as inferior to the governor’s plan. The FAA intends to post its analysis on its website this week. Cuomo hatched the idea several years ago seemingly without notice, as the project was not even on the priority list of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls LaGuardia Airport.

In announcing the plan at a Midtown breakfast event, the governor said it could cost as little as $450 million, but Port Authority officials quickly corrected that number to at least $1 billion. In October, the agency’s board authorized spending $2 billion on the AirTrain.

One concern of nearby Queens residents is that the construction could shake the earth and damage their properties. The Port Authority says the route was chosen to minimize the impact on surrounding neighborhoods. But a representative of one community group told The Real Deal that homeowners have been approached with offers of money in exchange for agreeing not to seek future compensation in the event that their houses are damaged.

The rationale for the project is that LaGuardia is the only major airport on the eastern seaboard without a rail connection. But Cuomo’s route to Willets Point has been questioned because it would carry passengers away from Manhattan and ask them to take the LIRR or No. 7 train back toward the central business district.

Service would have to be added to the LIRR, and the trip would still not necessarily be any faster than the current mass-transit option of taking the Q70 bus, also called the LaGuardia Shuttle, to the subway. [NYT] — Erik Engquist

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