NIMBYism derails the LaGuardia AirTrain


The plan for rail service to LaGuardia Airport took a major hit last week. The, proposed in 2015, will no longer be built above the Grand Central Parkway, connecting the airport and Willets Point in Queens. Residents in East Elmhurst scored a victory in getting state officials to agree that the path was sufficiently detrimental to their quality of life. Two remaining options for a track routing exist. It could run along the Flushing Bay Promenade or out over the water of Flushing Bay.

This was the proposed routing for the new LaGuardia AirTrain. It will not be what is built based on recent developments.
This was the proposed routing for the new LaGuardia AirTrain. It will not be what is built based on recent developments.

The Ditmars Boulevard Block Association, one of the neighborhood groups opposing the plan, suggests that the new AirTrain from LaGuardia would create health problems and property damage:

We stress the myriad health and property damage concerns attendant to construction of the proposed route. The airport and vehicle traffic already impinge on air quality in our neighborhood.

Yes, they believe that a train designed to remove cars from the roads around the airport will increase vehicular traffic and noise while reducing air quality. Not surprisingly, plenty are calling that position out as ridiculous. Alas, their state representatives don’t see the deception.



Getting the construction approved requires legislation to clear in Albany and the two local representatives who plan to introduce the bill will not include the GCP routing as an option.

Read More: Rail Service Proposed to LaGuardia. Again.

Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, one of the two, believes that building the rail line over the water is somehow a better plan, despite it bringing the highest costs to bear. And cutting through a state park, which would require an additional action of divestiture from the state. And creating a new transit conduit rather than taking advantage of one that already exists.



The advantage of the AirTrain to Willets Point was that it affected the fewest residents. It was chosen in spite of offering a less convenient transfer point which will make the ride more difficult for the very passengers it claims to be helping, those who want better mass transit at LaGuardia. Oh, and the half billion dollar price tag originally envisioned appears to have doubled according to early design estimates.

The new, new plan - building over the water - is bad for the parks and bad for the bay, but it saves some residents from having a train running along with the traffic of the Grand Central Parkway
The new, new plan – building over the water – is bad for the parks and bad for the bay, but it saves some residents from having a train running along with the traffic of the Grand Central Parkway

It was a bad idea when it was running along the Grand Central Parkway, but at least there was something smart about it. Building a fully new right-of-way for this boondoggle is all sorts of bad.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

5 Comments

  1. The AirTrain should not be built at all. The current non-stop bus to the subway is faster and cheaper. You can get to Manhattan via the bus+subway for $2.75. The bus drives so fast that you have to hang on. It is not always bus=bad, train=good.

    Seattle built a train that costs more than the bus and is slower than the bus. The bus was non-stop from downtown, not winding through neighborhoods and stopping many times. The Met-Willets Point station is farther than the current subway trip. The proposed train takes people farther from Manhattan. Stupid.

    1. Completely agree that this AirTrain plan is bad for the vast majority of passengers who want mass transit to LGA. It will be even worse if they built one of the more expensive alternate routes.

      That NIMBYism killing a project might turn out to be a good thing is pretty amazing.

  2. You clearly have not lived near overhead train lines. Port Authority does not have the budget to place the connection below ground and is looking to dump the social costs of the project – noise, pollution ongoing maintenance construction – on a limited set of communities. They have cause to complain. If residents were opposed to a below ground line, I might consider this NIMBYism. On net, your post is more politics than substances. And yes, the plan is terminally flawed. Why would anyone take the train to Flushing and backtrack to LGA? Current express bus is far better than the purposed airtrain.

    1. Building it below ground in that neighborhood would be ridiculous.

      I’m not suggesting that overhead trains are silent. But claiming that a train is going to disrupt the peace and quiet of the GCP traffic it will run above is ludicrous. So is the suggestion that an electric-powered train will reduce air quality or increase cars on the road.

  3. Train would disrupt the peace and quiet of the GCP? Increase cars on the road? Huh?
    Bizarre arguments. The 70 bus works just fine for me.

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