OPINION: The LaGuardia AirTrain Is About Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

The project's benefits will bolster our economy for decades, says A Better Way to LGA coalition.

A rendering shows what the AirTrain station would look like at Willets Point. Image: AbetterwaytoLGA.com
A rendering shows what the AirTrain station would look like at Willets Point. Image: AbetterwaytoLGA.com

The Federal Aviation Authority is holding workshops and public hearings starting on Tuesday about the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s plan to build a rail link between LaGuardia Airport and the 7 train and Long Island Rail Road stations at Willets Point, about two miles to the east of the airfield. The proposal is controversial because of its route, its cost, its usefulness and its very place in a post-COVID world. Streetsblog has consistently covered the issue (archive here), but today we present multiple op-eds from various players. For more information about the virtual workshops and public hearing, click here.

As representatives of New York’s business community, hospitality and tourism industry, and building- and construction-trade unions, we support an infrastructure project that is not only a vital transportation link that is long overdue, but that is also critical to our economic recovery — AirTrain LaGuardia. 

New York has led the way in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, but we face a steep climb in rebuilding our economy. A third of small businesses in New York City may be gone forever; construction employment is down by more than 13 percent and, after a decade of consecutive record-setting years, the tourism industry has been devastated. 

Despite the challenges, we remain confident that New York will come back. From its earliest days, the city has proved that it can get back on its feet. One strategy we’ve relied on is to build our way back by investing in infrastructure that creates good-paying jobs now, when we need them, while building the foundation for growth well into the future. 

AirTrain LaGuardia’s benefits will bolster our economy for decades by creating a mass rail-transit link to the airport that will provide a fast and dependable ride to and from Midtown Manhattan of 30 minutes or less. 

Today, 93 percent of travel to LaGuardia is by private vehicle or private shuttles. Relying on vehicles means that travelers too often spend their first and last hours in New York stuck in traffic. With the historic, $8-billion investment to transform LaGuardia into the nation’s most technologically sophisticated airport, it is ludicrous to think that it should remain as the only major airport on the East Coast without a mass-transit rail link. 

AirTrain offers a reliable, green alternative that will reduce vehicle emissions and congestion that has hampered local business operations. Surveys of passengers at LaGuardia indicate that as many as 10 million would use AirTrain and its connections through a new station at Willets Point to the Long Island Rail Road and the No. 7 subway to Manhattan, with direct access to Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, Penn Station, and the Javits Convention Center. 

Those connections will be an important asset as we rebuild our tourism and convention industry, while making New York more inviting and easier to navigate for business travelers who will have greater options for conducting business virtually in the future. AirTrain will make our city more competitive. 

In Queens, we have seen the potential for AirTrain to serve as a critical spark for local economic development. AirTrain JFK, with a station connecting to the LIRR in downtown Jamaica, was a catalyst for more than $1 billion in private and public investment to date, with more in development. 

AirTrain LaGuardia could do the same for the long-anticipated redevelopment of Willets Point adjacent to the new station, helping turn a blighted industrial district into a neighborhood filled with new housing, retail, hotels, schools, and parks. 

Unlike other alternatives, AirTrain LaGuardia would take no private property and would not run through any residential neighborhood or commercial districts. It would be separated from the nearest homes by the eight-lane Grand Central Parkway. 

The project represents an opportunity to help rebuild our economy in a way that makes our roads less congested, helps us combat global warming, and supports one of the city’s top economic engines at LaGuardia Airport. That’s why we whole-heartedly support AirTrain LaGuardia. 

Signers:

  • Association for a Better New York
  • Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, Boilermakers Local #5
  • Concrete Workers District Council No. 16
  • Delta
  • Downtown Alliance
  • Flushing Chinese Business Association
  • Global Business Travel Association
  • Global Gateway Alliance
  • Grand Central Partnership
  • Greater Jamaica Development Corporation
  • Hotel Association of New York City
  • Hotel Trades Council
  • International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers (five locals)
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • JetBlue
  • LaGuardia Gateway Partners
  • Long Island Association
  • Long Island City Partnership
  • Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
  • Mason Tenders District Council (four locals)
  • New York Building Congress
  • NYC & Vicinity District Council of Carpenters (11 locals)
  • New York Mets
  • NYU Rudin Center
  • Queens Chamber of Commerce
  • Queens Economic Development Corporation
  • Right Track for Long Island
  • Tech:NYC
  • The General Contractors Association of New York
  • Times Square Alliance
  • Transport Workers Union
  • United Airlines
  • Vaughn College
  • Vision Long Island

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