A coalition of civic groups in Queens seeking to stop a project to upgrade and modify a Kennedy Airport runway has filed a lawsuit asking a federal court in Manhattan to order the airport operator to conduct a full environmental impact study.
The Eastern Queens Alliance, representing residents of southeast Queens, said the Port Authority's proposal to widen Runway 4L/22R and construct 728 feet of new pavement on the north end would put departing and arriving airplanes closer to homes, schools, churches and businesses.
Jets taking off and landing nearer to where children study and people live, work and worship would undoubtedly bring more noise and air pollution to neighborhoods that are already inundated with them, said the coalition's chairwoman, Barbara E. Brown of Brookville, Queens.
"The noise pollution is already bad, and to tell me a little more noise is not going to impact me is ludicrous," Brown said Tuesday in an interview.
The Port Authority declined to comment Tuesday, but in its reply to the lawsuit filed in September, the agency said its plan to extend Runway 4L/22R to 12,079 feet from its current 11,351 feet and widen it to 200 feet from 150 feet is necessary to meet design standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration. The wider runway would accommodate larger aircraft such as the Airbus A380, a double-decker widebody jet that is currently the world's largest passenger airliner.
The FAA requires runways to have a buffer zone, referred to as runway safety area, to lessen the risk of damage to property and injury to passengers in the event an aircraft overruns, undershoots, or is forced to leave the runway. The Port Authority has until Dec. 31, 2015, to bring Runway 4L/22R into compliance.
Adding 728 feet of new runway to 4L/22R, the Port Authority said, would allow enough room for planes to take off and still leaves 1,000 feet of runway to serve as a buffer.
"Only departures from Runway 22R are being changed and the final . . . determined that this change did not have a significant impact on the environment," the Port Authority said in its response to the lawsuit.
The project would increase the noise level by less than 1 decibel, but the Port Authority said only changes that result in an increase of 1.5 decibels or above would be deemed a "significant" impact.
The FAA, which reviewed the Port Authority's proposal and signed off on it, agreed.
A spokesman for the FAA also declined to comment Tuesday, but in its response to the lawsuit, the FAA complied with all regulations in its review of the project.
A panel of judges at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments Dec. 18.