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Begging Port Authority to fix the Flushing Bay Promenade is an empty gesture

Residents shouldn't have to beg to fix Flushing Bay Promenade

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Flushing Bay PromenadeLast week, a group supporting the LaGuardia AirTrain project publicly asked the Port Authority to make improvements to the Flushing Bay promenade if the AirTrain is approved. The request by the “Better Way to LGA” coalition comes days after the Federal Aviation Administration’s initial scoping report ignored the concerns that many residents, local organizations and citywide advocates raised about the project

While improving the promenade is something that locals have advocated for years, what the coalition is implying is deeply troubling: that the community needs to accept a large scale, state-led infrastructure project in order to get their benches and railings fixed. Residents and park users should not have to accept a dubious transit project to get the park that they deserve. 

Local community, transit equity and park groups (all of whom were absent at this press conference and are not a part of the Better Way to LGA coalition) have been asking for these improvements for years. In early 2018, the Flushing Bay community developed a far reaching vision of its own, to restore not only the Promenade but the overall health, resiliency and public enjoyment of the shorelines (click here for the Flushing Waterways Vision Plan). The success of the vision plan will be greatly threatened by Port Authority’s proposed AirTrain.

Even more alarming is the fact that these basic park improvements are being used to sell the community on a massive infrastructure project. It is telling that not a single environmental or community group stood with the coalition to make the ask.  Despite the theatrics of the press conference, improving some features of the promenade to “mitigate” the enormous impacts that an AirTrain would have on the park is merely a legally-required result of state and federal environmental laws. The Port Authority’s proposal to build an AirTrain from LaGuardia Airport to Willets Point would construct a 30-foot high railway extending over 700 feet of the Flushing Bay Promenade. The project would require condemnation of some of the Promenade, and it would increase noise and shade part of the Promenade. Because of these impacts, environmental laws require that some parkland improvement projects must be completed. The Port Authority is being asked to do what it must do: mitigate the impacts of the project on the parkland and the communities of East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Flushing who use it. 

Instead of offering an empty gesture, the Better Way to LGA coalition should join with the local community to demand a valid review of alternatives, such as a ferry, bus rapid transit or extending the N/W-Train line. This would help make sure Port Authority implements the best public transit options for all New Yorkers. Time and resources would be better spent ensuring that the environmental review process is as robust as possible and weighs all alternatives evenly

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