Crowley, Ackerman Call on Department of Transportation to Address Questions about Waste Transfer Station near LaGuardia Airport

Aug 16, 2011 Issues:

Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) and Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, L.I.) sent a letter to Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood requesting an immediate response to a recent article in the New York Post about the proposed garbage transfer facility near LaGuardia Airport in College Point, Queens and concerns that the airport’s eastern runway “protection zone”, or safety perimeter, could be compromised to accommodate the construction of this facility.

“The residents of Queens, as well as the American flying public, deserve to know that every possible effort has been made to guarantee their safety.  We cannot allow questions about the safety of this facility to linger,” write the lawmakers.

For nearly five years, Crowley and Ackerman have warned that the garbage at the trash transfer facility could attract birds and increase the threat of bird strikes to planes landing and taking off from LaGuardia. These concerns were heightened following the “Miracle on the Hudson” flight in 2009, when U.S. Airways flight 1549 – which departed from LaGuardia – crash landed into the Hudson River after birds struck the aircraft’s engines.

Following the incident, Crowley and Ackerman jointly called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reexamine the danger to the Queens community caused by the construction of a trash transfer station near LGA through an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act. At the urging of Crowley and Ackerman, in 2010 the FAA agreed to implement an unprecedented bird strike prevention plan to prevent collisions between birds and airplanes for the trash transfer station. Under this plan, an increase in bird activity would require the FAA to order the garbage transfer facility to be shut down. The U.S. Department of Transportation agreed to prescribe the safeguards after the two lawmakers met with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The full text of the letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is below: 
 
August 15, 2011

The Honorable Ray LaHood
Secretary of Transportation
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood,

We are seeking an immediate response to today's article ("FAA shrunk buffer around LaGuardia runway for bird-attracting trash facility," New York Post; Aug 15, 2011, 5) regarding the planned waste transfer station near LaGuardia Airport in College Point, Queens and concerns that the airport's safety perimeters will be compromised to accommodate the construction of this facility.

Since the inception of the project's planning phase, we opposed the construction of this facility because of the unsafe height of the building and the proximity to LaGuardia's 13-31 runway, as well as the increased threat of bird strikes - a dangerous and potentially lethal problem. Due to the concerns we raised with you during our June 16, 2009 meeting, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) carried out a bird-strike threat assessment and developed a plan to monitor bird activity near the planned trash site. As a result, the FAA agreed to monitor bird activity at the waste transfer station and temporarily close the facility if the bird population rises above unsafe levels. Additionally, the FAA adjusted the height of the transfer station to further enhance safety.

While we appreciate these good-faith efforts, we remain very concerned about the placement of this facility, which we were assured during the June 16, 2009 meeting was outside the Runway Protection Zone, and continue to be wary of the dangers posed by placing a waste station in the shadows of a major airport and runway. Today's report in the New York Post not only underscores our continued concerns, but raises our original questions about the placement of this facility and whether it improperly penetrates the safety zone surrounding LaGuardia Airport.

The residents of Queens, as well as the American flying public, deserve to know that every possible effort has been made to guarantee their safety. We cannot allow questions about the safety of this facility to linger. We look forward to your response regarding the safety standards raised by this article.

Sincerely,

Joseph Crowley
Member of Congress

Gary L. Ackerman
Member of Congress