NEW YORK – While the AirTrain plan supported by former Governor Andrew Cuomo has been dropped, the plan to extend the New York City subway to LaGuardia Airport is gaining support. The New York Daily News reported that Governor Kathy Hochul on October 4 “ordered the Port Authority to seek ‘alternatives’ to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to build a rail link from Willets Point in Queens that would have connected the airport to the Long Island Rail Road and the No. 7 train,” adding that Cuomo’s “plan would have sent LaGuardia travelers from Manhattan past the airport and made them backtrack to reach the terminals.”
And although “Cuomo’s plan last year received federal approval,” “local elected officials are among those who want the AirTrain plan replaced with a subway extension,” the Daily News reported, noting that Greek-American New York State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), “whose political base is Astoria, backs extending the N/W train to LaGuardia by building new subway tracks above the Grand Central Parkway — which would give travelers a straight ride from Manhattan to the airport.”
“A new overhead track that bends east from a point between the 30th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard N/W stations and then runs along the Grand Central would not require disrupting swaths of the surrounding neighborhood,” Gianaris told the Daily News.
“That seemed to make the most sense to me, it achieves the goal of getting the subway system linked up with the airport,” said Gianaris, the Daily News reported. “It keeps us from wreaking havoc on some of our local streets.”
“Gianaris in the early 2000s was among a number of Queens officials — including area Councilman Peter Vallone — who opposed extending the N line by turning it east at the Ditmars Boulevard stop over Ditmars Boulevard to the Grand Central,” the Daily News reported, adding that “the Astoria Boulevard route Gianaris now favors would run beneath the Hell Gate Bridge trestle, which Amtrak trains use for Boston-bound northeast corridor trains.”
“The Hell Gate Bridge issue was cited by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials when they approved Cuomo’s plan earlier this year,” the Daily News reported, noting that the route would also “hug St. Michael’s Cemetery, and would have to descend into a tunnel to make sure LaGuardia runways have enough clearance. Gianaris thinks the problems are solvable.”
“Another drawback to Gianaris’ preferred plan: Sending trains east below Astoria Blvd. might cut service to the N/W lines’ current northernmost stops, Astoria Blvd. and Ditmars Blvd.,” the Daily News reported, adding that “the new line might force the MTA to split service, with some trains terminating at LaGuardia and others at the Astoria-Ditmars station. But Gianaris, the Senate’s deputy majority leader, believes a subway extension will work better than Cuomo’s plan.”
“The [former] governor knew what plan he wanted, and flaws were discovered in every other plan. I’m looking forward to looking at fresh ways,” Gianaris told the Daily News.
“The subway extension could take years to plan, review and build,” the Daily News reported, noting that “funding it may be easier since the FAA earlier this year changed regulations that only allowed airport passenger facility charges to fund rail links that do not also serve communities.”
“I’ve been supporting this since I was a kid growing up in Astoria,” said Sen. Jessica Ramos (DQueens), whose district includes East Elmhurst, LaGuardia’s neighborhood, the Daily News reported. “I think that we can figure out a way for it not to displace any residences and perhaps make the best use of the industrial zone as possible.”
“It was definitely a disappointment that the wrong project was being pushed through, but I don’t think it [Hochul’s suspension of the project] was a loss,” Sen. Ramos told the Daily News. “It allows the community to come together around a concept that would benefit many more New Yorkers.”