Are Port Authority’s Airport Expansionists Flying Blind?

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The top brass over at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are patting themselves on the back about the PA’s plan to take over Stewart Airport near Newburgh, NY. "The region clearly needs additional capacity for air travel," Anthony
Coscia, the agency’s chairman, was quoted as saying in the New York Times. "It’s undeniable. This is intended to remedy exactly that
problem." If the deal goes through, Stewart, 60 miles north of New York City, will become the region’s fourth major air hub.

This expansion of air travel capacity comes at a time when people in other industrialized nations, most notably the United Kingdom, are increasingly aware that there is no such thing as free flight. Prince Charles of England recently announced he had cancelled his annual ski vacation after coming under fire from the nation’s Green Party and others for making too many unnecessary airplane trips. British Prime Minister Tony Blair caused a stir in scientific circles when he said he was reluctant to cut back on recreational travel and trusted in technology to cut airplane emissions. (Blair later received support for his stance from anti-poverty activist Jeffrey Sachs, who said global warming wouldn’t be stopped by a decrease in air travel.) Celebrities such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and David Beckham have been targeted by critics of wasteful flying.

Plane Stupid, an anti-flying activist group in the UK, contends that not only is air travel a major contributor to global warming, it is also, through airport expansion, a significant culprit in noise pollution and the destruction of open spaces. The roar of cargo and passenger traffic tops the concerns of Ulsterites Fight Overflight Noise, a local group opposing expansion at Stewart. But their voices have been drowned out by elected officials, including governors Eliot Spitzer and Jon Corzine, who say that increasing the region’s airport capacity is a simple necessity.

Photo: John Wardell (Nethino) on Flickr

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