In 2000 Concerns Over Train To LaGuardia, Air Quality
After a year that began with a successful battle against elimination of the high density rule for flights in and out of LaGuardia and JohnF. Kennedy InternationalAirports, continued with opposition to an extension of the "N" elevated train line north on 31st Street to LaGuardia, and culminated most recently with outrage over proposals for two new power plants in the area, the United Civic Community Association last week invited a panel of public officials from each level of government to discuss the state, the country, state, city and borough are in at its December meeting, the last of 1999 and of the 20th century.
"We look to them," associationPresident Rose Marie Poveromo said, for their plans."
Asked what he thought of the plan to extend the "N" train to LaGuardia, right through his district, City CouncilSpeaker Peter Vallone gave more than a glimpse of his future plans, saying, "I promise you in 22 months you’re going to have a different mayor who doesn’t want to extend the "N" train," adding, "The present mayor is the only person who wants to extend the "N".
"They’re talking about taking a 19th century structure and extending it through a community,"Vallone, who favors an all-water route using modern tunnel-boring technology for LaGuardia access, said.
Vallone appeared after delivering a dozen yellow roses and get-well wishes to Nicole Barrett, the 27-year old Texas native and Queens resident who continues to recover from brain injuries sustained allegedly by a homeless man.
On the issue of homeless, the speaker said, "some are criminals and need to be watched closely," citing the 23 prior convictions of the man arrested in the attack on Barrett. He cautioned, however, that there was something wrong with a mayor who "says two things at once."
Vallone was referring to the mayor’s plan to force the homeless to work for shelter while arresting those who sleep in the streets. "That’s wrong," he said.
Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, speaking first at Augustana Lutheran Church, Astoria Heights, said the compromise agreement that preserved limits on the number of large commercial jets which can fly into Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports every day gave Queens time to fight, since under the bill the system of limits would be phased out by 2007.
Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Carolyn Maloney called keeping the high density rule a big victory despite great odds and a hard fight for the Queens Congressional delegation but Shulman said her trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with the staff of Arizona Senator John McCain, chair of the transportation committee, confirmed his support to end limits, something she disagrees with. The current compromise allows smaller jets from smaller airports flying shorter distances to begin flying inMarch 2000 without restriction.
"These [smaller] jets are not as noisy," Shulman said, adding "they still represented a lot of traffic."
Shulman also noted the contribution her office made to get Delta Airlines to replace their 30-year-old Boeing 727s with the newest and most quiet planes available, a critical issue because this will reduce noise around LaGuardia significantly. Planes from hourly shuttles land and take off at the airport a total of 128 times between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. each weekday.
The new jets, twin engine Boeing 737-800s, will consume about 40 percent less fuel and are so much quieter that the area affected by engine noise will be only a small fraction of that currently affected.Shulman said Delta will begin converting to the new jets in July.
Shulman also said several routes to LaGuardia Airport were now being studied by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which would announce what they have in mind according to the borough president, in April 2000.
Shulman reminded residents that proposals for two new power plants in Astoria, one by Astoria Energy for a $600 million, 1,000-megawatt plant north of 45thStreet on the old Castle Oil site, and the other by the New York Power Authority for a $370 million, 500-megawatt facility at 31st Street near the existing Poletti plant, must pass environmental impact studies before construction is approved.
In deregulating the power industry, the state legislature created the State Board on Electric GenerationSiting and the Environment, known as the siting board, which is empowered to approve locations for new power plants.
Unsatisfied, Poveromo has said of air quality in the area, "the state is letting more power plants into a community already choking from old, pollution-spewing facilities and fromLaGuardia Airport."
Vallone’s position, too, has been that Astoria already has a large number of power plants, so any addition will impact the area bordering the East River more heavily than other communities.
Recalling that in 1969 the people of Astoria had to travel by bus to City Hall in protest of a plan to double the coal burning capacity of the Consolidated Edison Astoria and Ravenswood plants, both since sold although still in operation, Vallone said the protest forced a switch from coal to low sulphur oil.
"Now they’re talking about gas," he said in reference to the new plants, but added he opposed newer plants unless they are combined with a retirement of older, more polluting ones.
State Senator George Onorato lamented last year’s budget stalemate. The budget was the second latest in history when it was passed Aug. 3rd, then only with the assistance of a joint legislative committee with a public hearing, according to Onorato.
Onorato said restoration of Governor George Pataki’s cuts in education plus an additional $393 million allocation to New YorkCity was still not a fair share of revenue under the "Save Harmless Formula" adopted by the state legislature 20 years ago, which guarantees upstate communities the same percentage of funding even if there is a decline in school age population, which never occurs in the city.
He also called for dismantling of the SchoolConstructionAuthority (SCA) which was established more than a decade ago by the state legislature to build and repair New YorkCity schools, but has fallen far short of its original goal of creating a physically fit school system by 2000.
"We want to build safe schools where our children can have a wonderful atmosphere," Onorato said.
In Queens, where 36,000 classroom seats are needed and the school age population is growing by 10 percent each year, Shulman cited local School Districts 24 and 30 as two of the most crowded in the city, and Crowley has asked for federal help in building new schools or face a shortage of 60,000 seats in five years, the authority is considered an impediment to getting new schools built.
"They’re completely in a world of their own,"Onorato said of the SCA.
Assemblymember Denis Butler focused on the upcoming receipt next year by the state of its share of the $25 billion legal settlement from the tobacco industry.After passing along almost half the money to local governments, the state legislature must decide how to use the rest. Proposals have been put forth to use the money to provide health coverage for the uninsured, although there were also proposals to use some of the money for school construction as well.
Butler also noted passage in the Assembly of the Bubble Bill, which will monitor the quality of air around airports in Queens and is supported by the civic association.
Maloney, who traveled to Kosovo with President Bill Clinton recently, said that in 1992, when she was first elected to Congress, there existed a $490 billion federal deficit that the ClintonAdministration has turned into back to back federal surpluses for the first time in 42 years. She also noted that interest rates, unemployment, teen age pregnancy and crime are all down nationwide.
On Sunday,Dec. 12th, Maloney will sponsor a forum on the Asian Longhorned Beetle from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Cassino Restaurant, 47-16 Vernon Blvd., with representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to discuss efforts to stop the destruction of trees caused by the insect. She advised that Philip Craft at (212) 860-0606 had more information.
Finally, when asked by Poveromo about Y2K readiness, Shulman responded, "The city says we’re ready,hospitals seem to be ready," but added, "It doesn’t hurt to have a few bucks on hand, get a few candles and I can corner the market on Progresso soups, so you can have some."