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Fearing JFK airport expansion

Potential damage to environment alarms residents, experts

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Damage to Jamaica Bay, nearby wetlands and homes, and a major increase in noise pollution could be some of the consequences of an expansion of John F. Kennedy International Airport that was proposed in a report released last month by the Regional Plan Association.

The RPA, whose report was titled, “Upgrading to World Class: The Future of the New York Region’s Airports,” prepares transportation, housing, community design, economic and open-space plans and policies for the metropolitan area.

There are four proposed plans for the expansion of Kennedy Airport. Two of them would add approximately 49 more flights per hour, while the other two plans would add more than 70 flights. Each plan has different costs and projected impact on the surrounding community and environment.

Beyond the environmental impact on Jamaica Bay, the possibility of that many planes flying over the Five Towns area is sure to be an issue. Aircraft noise has been a major topic of concern for Five Towns and nearby neighborhoods for many years, and airport expansion of any kind will be met with local passions as plans take shape. Lawrence Mayor Martin Oliner, who is a member of the Town Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee, said that he plans to review the report carefully.

Elisa Hinken, a 15-year Inwood resident and a member of the Jamaica Bay Task Force, a group of citizens seeking to protect and maintain the bay’s resources, is worried that the expansion would cause flooding in homes around the bay due to a higher sea level, cause further loss of marsh and habitat for fish and wildlife, and require more homes to be covered by the highest level of Federal Emergency Management Agency flood insurance. Hinken said she previously paid $400 annually for FEMA flood insurance, and now pays $1,000.

“What good is insuring my house when I may not have a house?” she said. “In 20 years, my house may not be here.”

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