Viewpoints


EQA Comments on FAA Draft Order 1050.1F Environmental Impacts--Policies and Procedures

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September 30, 2013

These comments are made in response to the Federal Register notice on the above cited draft order (Fed. Reg. page 49596, 8/14/2013).  The Order defines and/or redefines the guidelines for EA, EIS, and Categorical Exclusions. It is our contention that it weakens the requirements for public input about topics, projects, etc. that are of vital concern to the communities affected by Airport-related actions. It serves to broaden the circumstances under which the FAA can avoid environmental review of operational changes, including flight paths, runway extensions, land acquisition and a whole host of other measures outlined under Categorical Exclusions.

The Eastern Queens Alliance, Inc., a federation of civic associations in Southeast Queens, is adamantly opposed to any weakening of the policies, procedures and guidelines that would require the FAA, LOB/SO’s and those entities who must seek approval from the FAA to include stakeholders in the decision making process regarding, in particular, but not limited to, contracts, leases, construction, installation actions, procedural actions, permits, airport layout plans, regulatory actions etc.  While the preamble states the purpose of this Order is to “ 1) provide clear, concise, and up-to-date discussion of the FAA’s requirements for implementing NEPA; and 2) clarify requirements in order to facilitate timely, effective and efficient environmental reviews of FAA actions including NextGen improvements”  a close read indicates that 1) it tends to obfuscate the requirements by constantly referring the reader to  the  Desk Reference and other documents containing critical related documentation that supports the rules  and 2) it weakens or eliminates, in many cases, the need for public comment and public involvement by placing many items/actions/projects that may have significant environmental impact to the neighboring airport communities under “Categorical Exclusions” excluding them only if “Extraordinary Circumstances,” a vague term at best, are declared.

Our review of the Draft Order proposed to serve as the FAA policy and procedures for compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and implementing regulations issued by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) reveals that the document applies to a broad array of actions such as leases, construction, installation actions, procedural actions, etc., i.e., runway extensions, runway safety areas, airport layout plans, land acquisition, etc. These are some of the very topics that are very much of concern to the Eastern Queens Alliance, Inc. and the communities in Southeast Queens because they have, and in most cases, will have significant environmental effects,  i.e. the proposed Runway Extension Project at JFK Airport and it’s significant impact on the human and natural environment. Yet this draft order would place that project under the category of Categorical Exclusion and only “ the responsible FAA official  would determine “ whether the proposed action falls within the scope of a CATEX. The sole opinion and decision of this one person would determine if extraordinary circumstances are factors or circumstances in which a normally categorically excluded action may have a significant environmental effect that then requires further analysis in an EA or an EIS.  We are furthermore concerned about what seems to be rather vague language in what determines the definition of extraordinary circumstances. According to the Order, extraordinary circumstances exist when the proposed action poses:

  •   b. (1) to (12 )i.e., An adverse effect on cultural resources under National Historic Preservation Act; An impact on properties protected under Section 4(f), an impact on natural, ecological, or scenic resources of Federal, state, tribal, or local significance,  etc.  and,
  •    May have a significant effect

But who defines “an adverse effect” or a “significant effect” if there is no requirement for public input, involvement or engagement? The Order appears to leave that determination up to the “Responsible Administrator”.  This results in important decisions being made by one person, who is making  his/her determinations based on language that is vague or highly subject to interpretation. This is unacceptable to the Eastern Queens Alliance and its constituent communities.

In addition, the Order states that “preparation of an EA should involve the public to extent practicable”. We ask: What does that mean?  It states that “Scoping is not required for an EA;”  We ask: Why? It also states  that Circulation of a draft EA is not required, but is optional at the discretion of a responsible FAA official. In addition, public meetings or hearings are not required for an EA. This language serves to eliminate the need for public consideration and involvement, and gives the FAA license to make unilateral decisions without consulting those upon whom they will be making major impacts. For example, according to the language in this document, the proposed 4L/22R Runway Extension at JFK airport would have been approved without any obligation to inform or listen to the public unless the “Responsible FAA Administrator” determined that this project falls into the category of “extraordinary circumstances.”  In deed, we are deeply concerned about the statement on P 1-3 in this document that “the procedures in this Order apply to the fullest extent practicable to ongoing activities and environmental documents begun before the effect date.” Since no final decisions have yet been issued on this project, it appears that the intent of this Order may be to avoid the need to consider the public concern about this and other similar projects.

New York City airports are in extremely close proximity to densely populated areas. This results in significant impacts to the human and natural environment by sometimes what the FAA might consider to be seemingly minor changes at the two major airports. We believe that those who live in the New York City, particularly in the Borough of Queens with JFK International Airport and LaGuardia, will be significantly impacted by many of the items listed under “Categorical Exclusions.” Indeed, this Order seems to categorize the very actions that we are deeply concerned about under this CATEX. It is imperative that those who most assuredly will be impacted be involved in the decision-making process as important stakeholders regarding operational changes airports..

It is our position and recommendation that the following items of listed under categorical exclusions should require minimally an EA, some of them an EIS, and that scoping and public involvement be required on all.:

  •  Approval of an Airport Layout Plan
  • Access road construction
  • Acquisition of land and relocation
  • Takeover of non-Federal facilities by the FAA
  • Topping or trimming of trees to meet CFR part 77, “Safe , Efficient Use, and preservation of the Navigable Airspace,” 
  •  Approval for …extending, strengthening or widening of a taxiway, apron, loading ramp or runway safety area; Reconstruction, resurfacing, extending, strengthening or widening of an existing runway
  • Purchase of an avigation easement to establish a runway protection zone ….provided it does not require extensive business or residential relocations.
  • Actions regarding establishment of jet routes and Federal airways
  • Establishment of new or revised air traffic control procedures conducted at less than or more than 3000 feet above ground level that “do not cause traffic to be routinely routed over noise sensitive areas… or significantly increase noise over noise sensitive areas…”
  • Establishment or removal of a displaced threshold on an existing runway,
  • Establishment of new procedures that routinely route aircraft over non-noise sensitive areas,
  • Any navigation performance…that in determination of the Administrator, would result in measurable reductions in fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, noise on preflight basis…irrespective of the altitude of procedures.

In summary, this order serves to evade community and general stakeholder input on major airport-related issues. The Eastern Queens Alliance maintains that the FAA Administrator should not be empowered to determine whether such critical issues as flight patterns, runway extensions, and airport layout plans fall under "Categorical Exclusions" or “extraordinary circumstances.” At minimum, those items should require an EA that requires informing stakeholders and stakeholder input.  In areas such as Queens, NY and other densely populated urban areas, on which operational and procedural changes at the large major airports are likely to seriously negatively impact the quality of life of massive numbers of residents, it is imperative that potential impacts be rigorously scrutinized by both the experts and the public during an open, transparent environmental review process, involving all stakeholders.  Not to do so is irresponsible at best and a serious violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the environmental review process set in place by NEPA.  In Southeast Queens, it is also tends to be a violation of environmental justice policies and procedures.

 

Idlewild Park: Under Attack by th PANYNJ?

For the more than ten years, the Eastern Queens Alliance (EQA) has been working to save Idlewild Park Preserve. In 2003, we protested against the rezoning of 25.4 acres of the parkland that the city sold to International Air Cargo, Inc. to build an air cargo industrial park. It turned out this was a “done deal.” Now we are struggling to preserve over 700 trees on the western side of this valuable 325 acre preserve which forms the headwaters to Jamaica Bay. Is this a “done deal” too? 

The Port Authority of New York/New Jersey (PANYNJ) has flagged 722 trees for removal. In fact, they have been in negotiation with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (NYCDPR) to remove the trees. Half of the trees they claim are current hazards to aviation. But one has to question: Why now? The trees didn’t miraculously have a growth spurt within the last several months or year or two. What makes them suddenly a hazard? Is it possible this is just a pre-emptive strike in anticipation of the proposed extension of Runway 4L/22R which has not yet been approved? The other half they claim will need to be removed if the runway is extended. Most of these trees don’t appear to be over 35 feet tall. Many are not taller than the two-story houses just a block away. There are those that are shorter. Is all of this then just a ploy to prepare for the Extension of Runway 4L/22R which, if completed, will result in aircraft flying much lower over our communities—perhaps 100+ feet lower?  Is this a case of environmental injustice? Will Idlewild become just an extension of the JFK runways rather than the valuable ecological preserve that it is? In effect,  this is what will happen if these trees are removed, clearing a huge swath of land through Idlewild Park Preserve between 228th Streets and Springfield Boulevard on the western side of the park!

The PANYNJ is moving swiftly ahead on the proposed plan to extend JFK Runway 4L/22R  for which the final Environmental Assessment (EA) has not been approved. How is this possible? A final EA needs to be issued. Comments to the draft EA need to have been answered. This has not happened. EQA has called for a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposal which requires much more public involvement. The PANYNJ needs to follow NEPA guidelines and honor Environmental Justice Policies. It needs to give full consideration to the communities it is so negatively impacting.

The Eastern Queens Alliance has called for the restoration of much of the degraded wetlands in Idlewild and are eagerly awaiting the construction of the Idlewild Park Preserve Environmental Learning Center which Borough President Helen Marshall made possible through the allocation of $5 million in the 2009 budget. Until then, we offer the forerunner of that center out of a small office trailer on the western edge of Idlewild. Idlewild Park Preserve is an integral part of that center. The park serves as a natural laboratory where learning about the importance of the environment, how to take care of it, and enjoy nature at its best happens.

Over the years we have planted trees, shrubs and wetland plants, built trails, took children on field trips through our environmental education program, and collaborated with NYCDPR on the building of an Idlewild canoe/kayak launch. Concerts, fitness classes and tours have also taken place here. Much of this has been possible through the acquisition of small grants.  Now all of this is threatened by the “taking of parkland”  by the PANYNJ for the airport. 

Idlewild is a critical ecological area in Southeast Queens, in the Jamaica Bay watershed and in the New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary. Why are we working to save the park and restore the wetlands? Wetlands perform very important functions. The EPA tells us that wetlands provide flood protection by serving as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface-water, rain, snowmelt groundwater and floodwaters. The trees, root mats and other wetland vegetation slow the speed of floodwaters. The combined water storage and slowing action lowers floodwaters and reduces erosion. Where wetlands lie downstream of urban areas, they counteract the large volume of surface water runoff that you get from pavement and buildings. The wetlands in Idlewild Park are critical in flood protection of the low-lying communities of Springfield Gardens and Rosedale areas. In fact, the destruction of wetlands over the years probably contributed to much of the flooding that our neighborhoods have experienced.

"It is important to note, the wetlands in the Idlewild Park Preserve also contain the largest expanse of high quality marsh along the shores of Jamaica Bay. The tidal creeks running through the park are the most extensive in, and provide the largest volume of freshwater to, the Bay."  These wetlands help to protect our open waters from pollution by serving as natural filters, replenishing groundwater, and controlling shoreline erosion. There has been much talk within the last few years about saving Jamaica Bay. Saving Idlewild Park Preserve is a critical component in that process. The powers-that-be need to realize this.

Also, be aware that more than one-third of the threatened and endangered species in this country live only in wetlands. The EPA tells us that nearly half use the wetlands at some point in their lives, particularly for nesting, feeding and breeding.

Furthermore, wetlands provide wonderful parkland for recreation, the enjoyment and appreciation of nature, and are great resources for environmental education.

Finally, Idlewild Park lies just south of the Springfield Gardens and Rosedale communities and immediately north of JFK Airport, or Rockaway Boulevard. It serves as a natural buffer between the airport, airport-related businesses and the residential communities.  We need to protect our communities against unbridled encroachment. 

Idlewild Park has been designated as a Forever Wild Preserve by the Department of Parks and Recreation of NYC. In that title, they recognize that it needs to be protected, along with other such natural areas, against the constant threat of infringement and degradation in the name of development.

                                                                                                                                          April 15,  2013 

Where We Stand: The NYPD Impound Lot

The Eastern Queens Alliance is adamantly opposed to the siting of the NYPD Impound Lot on Rockaway Boulevard in Springfield Gardens, NY.  For the past several years, the stretch of land along Rockaway Boulevard, just north of JFK Airport, has attracted projects that pollute the air we breathe, pollute our ground water, and only bring more smog, congestion and traffic into our area. None of them benefit the community.  For example, the Economic Development Corporation pushed through the construction of the International Air Cargo Center which was constructed on 25 acres of alienated park land on Rockaway Boulevard. The siting of Logan Bus Depot and Quick Courier on the south side of Rockaway Boulevard was also approved.  And now we face the siting of the NYPD  impound lot which is proposed for a 13 acre open space area that contains 2.2 acres of wetlands.  In addition, the MTA is planning to put a storage parking facility for out-of-service buses where the Nassau Expressway meets Rockaway Boulevard. This is very close to the two other EDC projects and the impound lot – and right across the street from the former Green Bus Garage, now operated by an MTA operating subsidiary. All of these projects are diesel-intensive, thus adding to the toxic mix of respirable particulates in the air we breathe here in the Brookville, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens Communities. They also all contribute to toxic runoff. We believe that this constant barrage of projects that negatively impact our community constitutes a violation of environmental justice policies.

Although the community has been calling for a cumulative risk assessment to take into account the many projects proposed and sited along this strip to evaluate the total cumulative impact, none has been completed. Our air and water quality are being negatively impacted despite “negative declarations” in the individual EIS’!

The site in question is valuable open space. It is not, as EDC claims, just empty space ripe for development.  It along with the other green spaces that are being gobbled up along the northern edge of JFK airport have served as natural, green, environmental buffers between the airport, related services in the vicinity and the residential community. While communities all over the country are striving to preserve their open space for ecological, health, aesthetic, and economic reasons the city seems to have targeted this strip for projects that contribute to pollution rather than help prevent it. What is happening in our community is diametrically contrary to the Mayor’s PlanNYC that calls for greening of the city.  The Mayor recognizes that trees and plants help to clean the air of pollutants, this being the motivation for the Million Tree initiative. We know that increasing, rather than decreasing the vegetation, the greenery in our community, is critical to the health of the residents in Southeast Queens who live in the JFK airshed. Yet what we are witnessing is a degreening of our community. While the city plants a million trees, thousands of trees and shrubs are being destroyed in this area.

Furthermore, the NYPD Impound project calls for filling 2.2 acres of freshwater wetlands.  While these wetlands do not have a surface connection to other water bodies in the area, it is highly likely that they are connected to the system of ground water that is an integral part of the Jamaica Bay Watershed. We know that wetlands are natural sponges and filtering systems that aid in the prevention of flooding and poor water quality. Even small areas in our community should be preserved to help combat the flooding that plagues Southeast Queens.  Yet the proposal for this project dismisses the importance of these wetlands by labeling them “non-jurisdictional”.

In fact, the letter it cites from the USACE states that the “site contains jurisdictional waters of the United States based on: the presence of wetlands determined by the occurrence of hydophytic vegetation, hydric soils and wetland hydrology according to criteria established in the 1987 Corps of Engineers Wetlands Delineation Manual.”  It seems to note that the only reason that they are considered, for the time being (perhaps five years)  “non-jurisdictional” is the result of a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. US Army Corps of Engineers, No. 99-1178, Jan. 9 2001, which ruled that the designation of “jurisdictional” cannot be based solely upon their use by migratory birds.”  The USACE also makes a point of saying, “It is strongly recommended that the development of the site…avoid ,,,the discharge of dredged or fill material into the delineated waters of the US….If not, authorization from their office many be necessary.” Clearly USACE doesn’t view these 2.2 acres as just a mud puddle as we were given to believe at the Public Hearing. 

The EQA maintains that these wetlands  should be preserved, not filled for an impound lot. A close reading of the EAS would seem to support this view when it maintains that the “center of the project site “is a wetland which appears to be supporting a diversity of wetland plant species; that a review of historical aerial photographs indicates that the project site “might have been retained to serve as a storm water detention area, receiving runoff from all of the surrounding paved services;” and that the project site contains 7 metal plate covers that are associated with “some type of storm water drainage system that discharges to the project site.” Yet this project would cover this site with an impervious surface, contrary even to recommendations and BMP’s in the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan. What’s to become of this critical flood control function of this site if the impound lot becomes a reality?

Per mitigation policy, at least acre for acre mitigation should be provided to account for any wetland loss. This policy is not being honored in the plan. 

Finally, the proposed project runs contrary to several recommendations in the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan. The JBWPP plan notes that some of the key issues that affect the water quality and the ecology in the bay are:

a.      Surface runoff as a result of urban development and the spread of impervious surfaces

b.     Displacing freshwater wetlands in the upper watershed … impeding the natural wetland filtration process.

c.      Displacement  and fragmentation of habitat…by land filling of ecologically sensitive areas, especially tidal…and freshwater wetlands and riparian areas in the upper watershed.

d.      Covering of soils with impervious concrete and asphalt surfaces, thereby decreasing ground water infiltration, while increasing the volume and rate of storm water runoff.

The JBWPP cites as an objective—To preserve and enhance natural areas along the periphery of the bay and in the watershed.  It advocates the promotion of the use of BMP’s in all new and existing development in the watershed, i.e.,

a.      onsite detention and infiltration of storm water runoff

b.     minimization of impervious surface

c.      creation of natural systems to control and minimize storm water runoff

d.      stabilizing and restoring salt marshes, wetlands, soils and other natural areas

e.      strengthening ecological buffers

This is also an objective of the Alliance and is in concert with our efforts in Idlewild Park Preserve and all of the adjacent wetlands and open space in the area, It is towards these ends that we created a master plan for the Idlewild Preserve and ecological system and have been constantly seeking funds for the restoration of wetlands and upland areas in Idlewild replete with trails, boardwalks and open classroom areas that would not only return ecological function, but provide for environmental education, recreation–including waterfront access, and simply the enjoyment of the natural environment. It is for this reason that for the last several years we have also been calling for 1) the turning over of the Thurstin Basin area to NYCDPR for the development of a waterfront park, 2) the turning over of all the DCAS properties immediately adjacent to Idlewild Park Preserve to NYCParks  as recommended by NYC Wetland Transfer Task Force, and 3) a moratorium on the further elimination of open space along Rockaway Blvd.

This project not only flies in the face of all that the Eastern Queens Alliance has been advocating for over the last six years, and discusses in its Whitepaper for Quality of Life in Southeast Queens, but it flies in the face of Environmental Justice Policies, the recommendations of the Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan, the Recommendations for the Transfer of City-Owned Properties Containing Wetlands promulgated by the NYC Wetlands Transfer Task Force, the Mayor’s Plan NYC initiative as well the recommendations adopted by the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary, and a  Community Board 13 resolution. We, therefore, strongly object to the siting of the NYPD Impound Lot on Rockaway Boulevard in Springfield Gardens. 

The Eastern Queens Alliance, Inc. is a federation of civic associations in Southeast Queens formed for the purposes of educating, raising awareness, mobilizing energies and generating community involvement in developing solutions to issues that cut across neighborhoods or community boundaries within Southeast Queens, including issues related to the environment, health, culture, public safety and other quality-of-life concerns. Go to the parent website for further information.

In a December 2007 policy report entitled Grounded:The Impact of Mounting Flight Delays on New York City’s Economy and Environment, NYC Comptroller, William C. Thompson, cites two studies which concluded, “that is airports were classified as stationary source of emissions like a power plant, commercial incinerator or large industrial manufacturing site, they would rank among the dirtiest fixed sources for pollution in a given community.” His report goes on to acknowledge that “The impact on air quality has been especially pronounced at Kennedy Ariport…because of the far greater increase in flights at Kennedy and because the increase there is attributable to full size aircraft…” He also acknowledges that “with the FAA projecting a doubling of U.S. airline passengers between 2005 and 2025, pollutant emissions are destined to grow, even as new more fuel-efficient aircraft are added to airline fleets and older, dirtier planes are retired…” Significantly, Thompson states, “As the volume of air traffic has increased and taxi-out periods have lengthened, air pollution in the vicinity of the airports…has become a growing concern, especially for the residents of …Springfield Gardens, and other neighborhoods adjacent to the airports.” We applaud the fact that the Comptroller is recognizing airport related pollution as a critical issue in our communities.

Residents in Southeast Queens are not surprised by any of the findings of the report. We have been convinced that the communities of Southeast Queens located adjacent to the JFK airport are, and have been, the victims of air pollutants from the JFK Airport. We have been convinced that adding airport-related and non-airport related pollution emanating from the industrial sector surrounding the airport creates quite a toxic soup for those residing in the vicinity. The neighborhoods adjacent to JFK not only have a concentration of air transportation related industries, but a significant absence of green spaces that is fast dwindling as more and more industrial landlords press for space. Summer evenings are sometimes interrupted by the permeating odors of jet fuel. Many who don’t live in the area say they notice fumes when entering Southeast Queens.

We know that airplanes and other combustion source engines are recognized sources of particulates. Our questions:
• Are the particulates in the Southeast Queen’s neighborhoods at a level that can impact the health of our residents?
• Are there chemicals associated with these particulates? What are they?
• Do these chemicals have a negative impact on the health of the residents in Southeast Queens and other areas in the immediate vicinity of the airport?

The residents of the Southeast Queens’ neighborhood would appreciate answers to the above questions. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation does monitor air pollutants in the New York City area. It is questionable, however, whether the monitoring provides an adequate picture of the situation in Southeast Queens. The monitoring stations located in Maspeth and Flushing are a considerable distance from the source of the pollutants. It is arguable that there is significant dilution and fallout occurring before reaching the measuring sites. The recorded information then does not reflect the immediate area. This lends support to the argument that the Eastern Queens Alliance has been making for monitoring in the areas immediate to all significant sources of the pollution in the vicinity.

The health effects caused by air pollutants can be minor to major respiratory problems. NYC has a higher rate of hospitalizations due to asthma (NYC Asthma Facts 2nd Edition 2003) than the rest of the US. The same document provides data indicating a fall off of asthma hospitalizations in the Southeast Queens area. Is this really the case, or are we seeing support for the no confidence in the health care systems stance in these areas? It is an accepted position among the residents that if you have private insurance, then you go to nearby hospitals in Long Island instead of those in the city. The Southeast Queens residents are more likely to utilize nearby Long Island hospitals such as Franklin General and Long Island Jewish instead of a city hospital. Does this means then that there is not adequate capture in the statistics of those hospitalizations for Asthma or other illnesses related to air pollution?

Particulates originating from diesel or similar combustion are believed to be associated with a variety of mutagenic and carcinogenic chemicals including polyaromatic hydrocarbons and nitroarenes. Studies in rats have found that diesel exhaust can produce neoplastic and inflammatory responses. The particles from such emissions have been shown to be in the 2.5 micron to 5.0 micron range. A particle size that can easily penetrate the lower level of alveoli and does great damage to lung tissue.

The Eastern Queens Alliance has been calling for substantive answers to the above-raised questions. In the Eastern Queens Alliance White Paper: A Comprehensive Plan—Maiximizing Quality of Life in Southeast Queens published in 2005, the Alliance called for high quality community health care facilities for community residents. It calls for mandated, regular, on-going monitoring of the hazardous air pollutants in Southeast Queens and reduction of the same. It is also calls for the establishment and strict enforcement of regulations aimed at encouraging efficient and less polluting vehicles in the area. The Alliance urges the city and transportation agencies to introduce natural gas and/or hybrid vehicles for passenger vehicles, buses and trucks throughout the commercial and industrial areas. It also takes the position that Federal laws must require less-polluting upgrades on aircraft frequently flying into non-attainment areas like Kennedy and LaGuardia, especially in close proximity to residential areas. In addition, the Alliance is calling for the Department of Health to focus on the causes and prevention of respiratory illnesses in areas in close proximity to major industrial pollution sources.                                                                                                                   

                                                                                                                                      October 9, 2008

The Air We Breathe

South East queens Located adjacent to the JFK airport is perceived to be the target of air pollutants from the JFK Airport and associated industries.  The area has a concentration of transportation airport-related industries and a significant absence of green spaces. Summer evenings are sometimes interrupted by the permeating odors of jet fuel. Airplanes and other combustion source engines are a recognized source of particulates.

  • Are the particulates in the southeast queen’s neighborhood at a level that can impact the health of our         residents?
  • Are there chemicals associated with these particulates?
  • What are these chemicals associated with the particulates?
  • Do these chemicals have a negative impact on the health of the residents in Southeast Queens and other areas in the immediate vicinity of the airport?

The residents of the Southeast Queens’ neighborhood would appreciate answers to the above questions.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation does monitor air pollutants in the New York City area. It is questionable as whether or not the monitoring provides an adequate picture of the situation in Southeast Queens.  The monitoring stations located in Maspeth and Flushing are a considerable distance from the source of the pollutants. It is arguable that there is significant dilution and fallout occurring before reaching the measuring sites. The recorded information then does not reflect the immediate area. This lends support to the argument that the Eastern Queens Alliance has been making for monitoring in the areas immediate to all significant sources of the pollution in the vicinity.

 The health effects caused by air pollutants can be minor to major respiratory problems.  NYC has a higher rate of hospitalizations due to asthma (NYC Asthma Facts 2nd Edition 2003) than the rest of the US.  The same document provides data indicating a fall off of asthma hospitalizations in the Southeast Queens area.  Is this really the case, or are we seeing the result of a seeming no confidence in the health care systems belief  among many in these areas? It is known among the residents that if you have private insurance, then you would go to nearby hospitals in long island instead of those in the city.  The Southeast Queens’ residents are more likely to utilize nearby long island hospitals such as Franklyn General and Long Island Jewish instead of a city hospital. Does this mean then that there is not an adequate capture of those hospitalizations for Asthma or other illness related to air pollution?

 Particulates originating from diesel or similar combustion are believed to be associated with a variety of mutagenic and carcinogenic chemicals including polyaromatic hydrocarbons and nitroarenes. Studies in rats have found that diesel exhaust can produce neoplastic and inflammatory responses. The particles from such emissions have been shown to be in the 2.5 micron to 5.0 micron range. A particle size that can easily penetrate the lower level of alveoli and does great damage to lung tissue.

 

The Eastern Queens Alliance has been calling for substantive answers to the above-raised questions. In the Eastern Queens Alliance White Paper: A Comprehensive Plan—Maiximizing Quality of Life in Southeast Queens published in 2005, the Alliance calls for high quality community health care facilities for community residents. It calls for mandated, regular, on-going  monitoring of the hazardous air pollutants in Southeast Queens and  reduction of the same. It is also calls for the establishment and strict enforcement of regulations aimed at encouraging efficient and less polluting vehicles in the area. The Alliance urges the city and transportation agencies to introduce natural gas and/or hybrid vehicles for passenger vehicles, buses and trucks throughout the commercial and industrial areas. It also takes the position that Federal laws must require less-polluting upgrades on aircraft frequently flying into non-attainment areas like Kennedy and LaGuardia, especially in close proximity to residential areas. In addition, the Alliance is calling for the Department of Health to focus on the causes and prevention of respiratory illnesses in areas in close proximity to major industrial pollution sources.

 

Currently, the Alliance is designing a community air quality study and is seeking to partner with a local university in the implementation of this effort. 

                                                                                                                                   December 7, 2007