The Westchester County Airport is located only 750 feet from the sensitive Kensico Reservoir – a location that would never be selected today. Thus, Riverkeeper’s primary goals are to ensure environmentally sensitive management of all airport operations, and prevent any expansion of the airport footprint and operations. Over the years, Riverkeeper has worked on numerous airport activities, including a lawsuit in the late 1990s that prevented General Electric from building a hangar at the airport.
Freezing Airport Expansion
In 2003, Riverkeeper worked to freeze airport growth and helped lead the Westchester County Board of Legislators to pass a resolution that requested an FAA exemption that freezes development of the airport at its current capacity, weight limitation of planes, and site footprint. Specifically, the resolution includes a limitation on the “number of flights, hangars, gates, and number of parking spaces at current levels in order that we may protect our fragile environment from the noise, air and water pollution that any such expansion would generate.” In addition, County Executive Andy Spano signed legislation that incorporated restrictions of the previous Terminal Capacity Agreement (TCA) into County law.
Specifically, the legislation states that 1) a maximum of 4 scheduled commercial aircraft may enplane or deplane per half hour, and 2) on average, there may not be more than 240 scheduled passengers either arriving or departing per half hour.
However, we must remember that the TCA and County legislation control commercial (but not private) flights, which are only approximately 25% of the total airport traffic. Thus, we must continue to be vigilant and urge the County to fully utilize its power to freeze growth at the airport.
Ensuring Environmentally Sensitive Management
Numerous projects are proposed at the airport and Riverkeeper works to ensure that they will not promote growth and will be conducted in an environmentally sensitive manner. Currently, we are evaluating the proposal to build permanent deicing facilities to replace and consolidate existing, temporary facilities. This project was first proposed in 1999, and several deicing studies were conducted (in 2001, 2003, and 2005), which informed the alternative now being proposed.
While Riverkeeper believes that it is important to find a permanent solution for safe deicing that reduces the potential for contaminated stormwater runoff from glycol-based aircraft deicing fluid, we continue to have concerns about the potential to facilitate growth, the size of the proposed facilities, disposal of captured stormwater runoff, and consideration of alternative deicing technologies.