Wed, Mar 16, 2016 • Westchester Airport
Last fall, County Executive Rob Astorino unveiled a proposal to alter the passenger cap currently in place at the Westchester County airport. The proposal expired at the end of last year without action being taken and this year, the Administration re-introduced the bill.
Given the recent publicity, you are likely aware of this bill that is making its way through the Westchester County Board of Legislatures. We are writing today to share our position and recent activities regarding the legislation.
PEPA's position has been that insufficient information was provided by the Administration to allow PEPA to make an intelligent decision on the merits of the proposal. Certainly, proposing legislation allowing 11,520 passengers per day caused many alarms to go off. It turns out that the Administration developed that number simply by multiplying the current restriction of 240 passengers per half hour by 48 (48 x 240 = 11,520).
PEPA has taken the following actions to date:
PEPA retained the services of former Legislator Martin Rogowsky, who represented the "airport communities" for 13 years, including 4 years as the Majority Leader, before retiring at the end of 2011. Mr. Rogowsky has been retained to assist PEPA in gathering the necessary information that PEPA needs to properly analyzed the proposal. PEPA is also working with our local County Legislator, David Gelfarb who has committed to us that he will be very diligent in following this proposal and in raising the concerns he also has expressed regarding the legislation. In addition, PEPA continues to co-ordinate with other local groups and local governments to keep everyone up to date on our issues.
The following deficiencies in the current proposal have been recognized:
There is the need to get the FAA to sign off on any potential legislation that might be passed into law. Failure to get such approval from the FAA would expose the County to the FAA determining now or in the future that this new law has abrogated the County's "grandfathered" status allowing the Restrictions that were codified in 2004, so that such restrictions might now be deemed null and void by the FAA, an unacceptable outcome.
The SEQR documentation provided by the County in support of this proposal is very deficient, simply a bunch of conclusions and assumptions. The facts and data needed to support these conclusions and assumptions were not provided.
The County, in attempting to "enlarge" the number of passengers permissible per half hour, while staying within the "daily" limit of the current restrictions, used a 24-hour day, which includes 6 and 1/2 hours of time currently part of the "Voluntary Curfew". Why would the county use time slots that the County has vigorously fought for decades to be time slots where no planes would operate. It violates the County's own policy.
PEPA has independently received data from the airport operators that show that on the busiest day of the year in 2015 (when no restrictions a re in place, per current law), there were 2530 passengers using the airport, nowhere near the proposal of 11,520. It seems that the County did not take into account the current situation at the airport prior to "alarming" the communities by asking for permission to allow up to 11,520 per day!
On February 29th, 2016, PEPA joined with the Federated Conservationists of Westchester County (FCWC) and Sierra Club in testifying before 3 Legislative committees to express our great concern over the deficiencies of the current proposal.
Going forward, PEPA will keep all of our members up to date as new issues develop and as the County takes additional steps regarding this legislation. Mr. Rogowsky reports to us that it seems quite likely that the Administration will be "delaying" any further action on its proposal until it presents additional data to the Legislators, who have made it quite clear that they will not take any action without that data, including a much more vigorous SEQR analysis.
Finally, thank you for those who contacted PEPA to share information, questions and concerns. Together we protect our community!
We will continue to share updates to keep you informed and engaged.