Expansion to Tweed Airport approved
With much anticipation, plans to expand Tweed Airport move forward with passage of bill.
On Thursday night, the New Haven Board of Alders approved a 43-year lease for the expansion and renovation of Tweed-New Haven Airport.
The lease agreement between the city and Tweed-New Haven Airport Authority will provide $70 million for a new airport terminal, eliminating the annual $1.8 million city and state subsidies to the airport. But with hopes and expectations for commercial stimulus come concerns for the environmental impact of the expansion. The bill passed with the addition of an amendment, which requires that the environmental impact of the expansion be assessed after it takes place. However, critics say that an environmental investigation should come before the airport expansion.
“Was this an easy decision for me? No, it wasn’t an easy decision,” Ward 10 Alder Anna Festa said during deliberations on the bill. “We did hear positive and negative reports from residents of the city, but the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to being fiscally responsible.”
At Thursday’s meeting there was also a small group protesting the bill. The group included Grett Gallicchio, who has lived in Southeast New Haven — the area that will be affected by the airport expansion — for 20 years.
Gallicchio described the bill as “devastating” and criticized the process as “completely backwards.”
“Table the vote on Tweed,” Gallicchio said in an interview with the News after the meeting.
She held up a sign during the vote that read “We need environmental studies first.” Gallicchio emphasized the fact that the bill was approved first, with plans to address the environmental impact after.
The “backwards process” that Gallicchio referenced is an attempt to address some of the environmental concerns for the bills with a series of the amendments. The unanimously passed amendments proposed by Ward 18 Alder Salvatore DeCola require that an Environmental Stewardship Committee be established by Tweed’s airport authority. The committee will consist of three New Haven and three East Haven residents and will be staffed by New Haven’s Engineering Department, with the goal of assisting the Authority “in promoting and maintaining sustainability efforts.”
The amendment would also require the airport’s management company and the airport authority to “study and, to the extent feasible, implement a passenger carbon offset program.” The quality of the airport’s authority performance would also have to be reviewed by New Haven every ten years.
DeCola said at Thursday’s meeting that he was acting as a voice for others in the community who weren’t willing to attend the meeting, but who would support the expansion.
“I am speaking for the ones that want the airport,” DeCola said at the meeting. “If you’re not sure why… they’re yelled at or embarrassed, so they choose not to come.”
Most alders, like Ward 7 Alder Abby Roth who said that “the benefits to New Haven outweigh the concerns,” emphasized the difficulty they had in deciding whether to support the bill. They cited their conflicting environmental and fiscal concerns.
Mayor Justin Elicker gave his support for the plan in a message he sent out Thursday evening directly following the vote.
“I want to thank the Alders and many within the community for supporting a plan that will make Tweed more attractive to prospective air carriers, more convenient for the traveling public, eliminates the need for state and City subsidies, provides improvements to the surrounding neighborhood and generates much-needed jobs and economic activity in the region,” Elicker wrote in the press release.
His opponent in the mayoral election, Republican John Carlson, told the News he doesn’t approve of the bill as passed, objecting to the fact that the environmental study will not be conducted before the expansion begins.
The airport expansion includes plans to lengthen the airport’s main runway from 5,600 ft to 6,635 ft, and to build a new passenger terminal and a new parking garage.