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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Catastrophe in the Making’ at LaGuardia

QUEENS, N.Y. (CN) - A public safety group wants to stop construction of a marine waste transfer site "dangerously close" to LaGuardia Airport, which it calls "a catastrophe in the making." Friends of LaGuardia Airport and pilot Kenneth Paskar say the North Shore Marine Transfer Station, which has permits from state and city agencies, will attract birds that can pose a danger to aircraft.

Paskar is a licensed pilot who has steered aircraft into and out of LaGuardia Airport for a decade and has advocated for public safety issues for more than 30 years.

"Indeed, the FAA and USDA warned of the 'risk posed to safe aircraft operations by birds' that 'would likely occur' unless 'the design and operation of the proposed MTS [marine transfer station]' address these 'wildlife issues,'" according to the complaint in Queens County Court.

The complaint points out that a bird strike felled US Airways Flight 1549, which became known as "Miracle on the Hudson" after pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenburger safely crash-landed in the river.

The proposed waste site is "a mere 700 yards" away from one of LaGuardia's runways, directly in the flight path of departing and returning flights to the airport, according to the complaint.

The respondents are New York City's Department of Sanitation (DOS), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and DEC Acting Commissioner Peter M. Iwanowicz.

"Only through this court's intervention can the public be protected from a catastrophe in the making. Incredibly, DEC is allowing DOS to continue with the project under existing permit conditions that the FAA/USDA's evaluation report found were woefully insufficient to ensure public safety. Under these circumstances, it is not only irrational but irresponsible for DEC to accept as an article of faith that DOS will make the more than dozen specific changes to the project necessary to address the FAA/USDA panel's grave concerns and to mitigate the public safety risks. Rather, it is incumbent on DEC to revoke or suspend the existing permit, bring a halt to construction, and then pursue an orderly process to impose on DOS new permit conditions necessary to protect the public from plane crashes," the complaint states.

The petitioners say the proposed dump site is already surrounded by a garbage depot, waterfronts and marshes, complicating a pre-existing problem.

"[L]ong before DOS began construction of the North Shore marine transfer station, the Port Authority had bird strike mitigation measures in place at LaGuardia Airport because of the already existing risks associated with the surrounding environment. Construction of the North Shore marine transfer station can only serve to compromise the effectiveness of those mitigation measures," the complaint states.

The petitioners want the permits revoked for the North Shore Marine Transfer Station, which they call "a colossally bad and dangerous idea" that "defies common sense, as well as basic precepts of risk management."

They are represented by Randy Mastro with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

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