Vallone Says ‘No’ To N Train Extension To LaGuardiaAirport
By John Toscano
The extension of the ‘N’ train down 31st Street should be dropped from consideration.
Declaring that "our communities need 21st century solutions to 21st century problems," Council Speaker Peter Vallone told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to scrap the proposed plan to extend the ‘N’ train to LaGuardia and look for another subway route to the airport.
Vallone, the Astoria representative in the Council, said he told the MTA:
"Extending the elevated track will cause unnecessary hardship to residents and businesses in the area. The MTA wants to go their way, not our way."
Any alternative plans will require environmental impact studies before the final choice of a route is made, Vallone noted. And if the proposed routes cross city-owned land, they will have to be approved by the City Council. In such a situation, Vallone would be influential as to which route the Council’s zoning and land use committees would make.
Vallone warned: "As we go through this process, be assured that I am first and foremost mindful of the needs and concerns of our community. I know that we can find a way to improve airport access without causing undue hardships to local communities."
The MTA has been holding public hearings on several proposed routes to LaGuardia. Ever since these were announced, the proposal to extend the ‘N’ train from its present terminus on 31st Street near Ditmars Boulevard has been almost universally rejected by residents and business owners along the route.
The proposed route would extend ‘N’ train north on 31st Street for several blocks and then turn east toward the airport.
The extension down 31st Street, where new elevated tracks would have to be built, would disrupt the residents and businesses there for several years and, when completed, the new el tracks would cast a shadow over what is now a bright, sunlit street. Noise trains would then pass within 10 or 15 feet of homes and apartment houses which line the busy thoroughfare.
Vallone suggested that a route following the East River shoreline to the airport might be more feasible.
Another of the proposed routes which has some support involves building an extension from Willets Point to the airport from the No. 7 train which runs by there. Willets Point is an industrial area with few if any residences, so there would be little disruption caused by construction and operation of a line from that point.
The idea for a public transit connection to LaGuardia was born when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey conceived a light rail system from Manhattan to John F. Kennedy International Airport which did not include access to LaGuardia Airport as well as many previous plans did. Governor George Pataki came out strongly for the JFK link, which has now been approved, but Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Queens Borough President Claire Shulman gave it grudging support because it excluded a link to LaGuardia.
The mayor and Shulman then secured a promise from the governor to find a study to find a train linkup to LaGuardia. The funds were approved and MTA and Port Authority engineers came up with five or six possible routes to LaGuardia which, like JFK, is operated by the Port Authority.
Shulman has always maintained that a Manhattan-to-LaGuardia linkup should have precedence over a Manhattan-to-JFK route because more of the business travelers that are the focus of the new service use LaGuardia in their business-related travel the Port Authority must explore alternative routes and "innovative approaches" when improving transportation to LaGuardia. The extension of the ‘N’ train down 31st Street does not fit this formula and should therefore be dropped from consideration.