2003-07-16 / Front Page

N Train Extension To LaG Scrapped

By John Toscano

Gazette photo Extending the N train by an elevated line over a long row of retail stores and residences along 31st Street (see arrow) was never a viable option.Gazette photo Extending the N train by an elevated line over a long row of retail stores and residences along 31st Street (see arrow) was never a viable option.

No tears were shed in Astoria over a reported decision by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to derail the plan for extending the N train to LaGuardia Airport linking the airport with Manhattan.

In fact, considering the long and strong united opposition to the proposal in the Astoria community, the MTA had to be as pleased as everyone else that the plan fell through.

Assemblymember Michael Gianaris commenting on the unexpected development said the plan "belonged on the back burner where they put it."

City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. took the news as a great victory for the community and was glad the TA finally saw the light and scuttled the proposal.

Community Board 1 District Manager George Delis vowed to fight the planned extension "as hard as we can as long as we have to in case the MTA revives it."

Although there were mixed feelings about the need for a rapid transit connection from Manhattan to LaGuardia, there was some support expressed for alternate proposals previously considered as routes to the airport.

The unexpected word on the plan’s demise came on Monday in the Daily News. A story said that the emergence of several major and high-cost transit plans had forced the MTA to drop the Manhattan-to-LaGuardia proposal, which was strongly supported by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Borough President Claire Shulman.

The story said $17 million had been spent on planning, and another $645 million set aside in the MTA budget would stay there, earmarked for the abandoned plan but barred from use in any other project.

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow was quoted as saying of the plan, "It hasn’t gone away, but it’s slid."

Superseding the LaGuardia proposal was a plan to create a new route for the Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central Station via Long Island City; the extension of the No. 7 train to the far west side of Manhattan and construction of the Second Avenue subway on the east side of Manhattan.

Also cited as part of the reason for shunting aside the La Guardia plan was the massive post September 11 creation of a major transit hub at the former World Trade Center site and another at Fulton Street in lower Manhattan.

Giuliani and Shulman proposed a Manhattan-LaGuardia subway link about 10 years ago after Governor George Pataki approved the AirTrain plan linking Manhattan subway service to Kennedy Airport in Jamaica. The AirTrain is set to come online shortly.

Reviewing the background of the LaGuardia connection plan, Gianaris recalled, "The community studied and recommended many options [about 20] but they were all ignored by the MTA." The one most favored by the community and elected representatives was the No. 7 train connection from Willets Point near Shea Stadium to the airport, Gianaris said.

"That went through industrial areas, not residential communities like the N train, and came into the back of the airport," Gianaris said. "It was ideal."

Asked if he felt there was a great need for a transit connection into LaGuardia, Gianaris (D–Astoria) said, "I can understand the need for it." However, he said, he doubted very much that a businessman in Manhattan would suffer the inconvenience of a train ride as opposed to a taxi ride.

Vallone said the MTA must finally have realized that extending 19th century technology through the heat of a vibrant neighborhood to get to the airport was not a good idea.

He said other alternative routes deserved consideration, but extending the N train by an elevated line over a long row of retail stores and residences was never a viable option.

As for a transit link to the airport, Vallone said there were more pressing needs at the overcrowded airport. "I think there are overriding air traffic concerns," he noted. "Remember this was voted the second most dangerous airport and it wasn’t built to handle the volume of air traffic that it does."

State Senator George Onorato (D–Astoria) could not be reached for comment on this article, but he was on record as being a major proponent of the Willets Point–No. 7 train link to the airport. He felt that proposal was a natural because it avoided residential areas and was confined to industrial sections where it disturbed no one.

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