NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The controversial AirTrain plan at LaGuardia is once again stirring up debate. The Port Authority has a shortfall of a few billion dollars and is asking for help.
Others say there are more important issues to spend the money on and the AirTrain plan should be scrapped.
The proposed AirTrain LGA would work like this: it would connect Midtown to LaGuardia, link to the number 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road at the Willets Point Station. The price tag? An estimated $2 billion.
The project has been panned for years by some local leaders and community groups due to environmental concerns and the potential for overcrowding on the 7 train. And now the Port Authority is struggling financially due to the pandemic asking the federal government for $3 billion.
“We are asking the federal government on this one-time basis to provide assistance, so that we can contribute to a very strong economic recovery,” said Rick Cotton, Executive Director of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants some of the money to go to the AirTrain Project, which is part of the overall construction project at the airport.
“The necessity for it goes back decades. It is part of the LaGuardia plan. Now, to the extent, it’s not separate item,” said Cuomo.
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“It was the governor’s pet project,” said Frank Taylor, President of Ditmars Boulevard Block Association.
The Dimars Boulevard Black Association has been against the AirTrain plan for years now and says if they don’t even have the money for it, it should be dropped.
“This area was one of the hardest hit with the pandemic. It was the epicenter here in East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. We don’t even have a mini-clinic here,” Taylor told CBS2’s Alice Gainer.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a longtime critic of the project.
“Which state and local funding is desperately needed in the next COVID-19 relief package, it would be the ultimate insult to finally send aid to this community in the form of a project they firmly oppose,” said Ocasio-Cortez.
The Port Authority says during the pandemic, air traffic has fallen over 90%. Without aid, tens of thousands of jobs are at risk and it will have to rethink its 10-year capital plan that includes improvement projects at all of its airports.