JFK Expansion Plan Could Hurt Local Economy, Wildlife

A flyover of Jamaica Bay, from a plan approaching or departing JFK. (Source: felix.castor/Flickr)

A planned expansion of John F. Kennedy Internation airport has environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts livid, as proposals call for development on portions of the federally protected Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently announced plans to expand capacity at Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and JFK airports, and the varying options include one, at JFK, that includes filling in – or to “reclaim” – nearly 400 acres of  Jamaica Bay, an important part of the National Parks System filled with plant and fish life.

Captain Frank Crescitelli, founder and chair of Fishermen’s Conservation Association, is speaking out against the plans.  Crescitelli told the New York Post that expanding JFK would mean no more fish left to catch, because it would disrupt Jamaica Bay.

“Every spring, Jamaica Bay is the ‘birthplace’ of life in our area; a happening that is nothing short of amazing,” Crescitelli, who has run Fin Chaser Charters for the past 14 years, told the Post. “It’s also the first place many people are drawn to for their initial outdoor experience of the year. Birds, turtles, porpoise, seals, and of course the best striped bass fishing in New York City.”

He further stated that current airport security conditions already make it difficult for visitors to go fishing near the airport, and that expansion would only make things worse, especially since striped bass stocks are in poor condition.

“The new proposed expansion would make it almost impossible; that’s if there were any fish left after this project,” he said.

It could also turn out to be a major drag on the local economy, since anglers, kayakers, bird watchers and boaters contribute millions of dollars annually to New York’s economy, and especially to coastal Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods bordering the reserve. In Sheepshead Bay, what remains of the already decimated recreational fishing industry will take yet another hit to accommodate Manhattan’s apparent demand for growth.

At least one Rockaway blogger, Vivian Carter, is steaming about the project, slamming it as “another big dream to fill the coffers of the lobbyists.” She foresees the return of flight-paths over the heads of neighbors, and a major push to overturn federal laws designed to stop a development that will harm our communities. She writes:

Now that tourism has replaced the finance industry as the engine of economic growth in NYC, I guess we’ll just have to get Congress to change that legislation (passed in the 1970′s when Gateway National Recreation Area was created), that prevents any further expansion of JFK’s runways into Jamaica Bay.
The big-shot blue ribbon panel appointed to make recommendations about Floyd Bennett Field is starting to make more sense to me, now.  The timing of the impressive visit to the peninsula by Mayor Bloomberg and his bevy of commissioners on Monday now adds up, as well.  Bloomberg must have been thinking–wow, if these people don’t like bike lanes, wait until we start routing the planes back over their heads again!

Should Sheepshead Bay’s residents start thinking about a response?


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