It is a well-established fact that LaGuardia Airport is horrendous, and the long-awaited but continuously delayed renovation is starting to seem more and more like it will never happen. So maybe we should just give it up entirely. That is essentially what George Haikalis, a civil engineer and transportation planner, argues in an op-ed published today in the New York Times. Haikalis makes the case for closing LaGuardia Airport and putting the money that would be spent rehabbing it to expanding service at the much larger JFK and Newark Airports. As for what could replace LaGuardia? Why housing, of course.
First, Haikalis's reasons for shuttering LaGuardia:
1) With just two runways, it's incredibly small, and since it is surrounded on three sides by water, there is no way to expand it.
2) The location also makes "landing difficult and hazardous."
3) More than half of LaGuardia's flights are small regional jets with less than 100 seats each. Haikalis says, "Average loads per flight at La Guardia are only two-thirds those at Kennedy," and that most of these are duplicate flights.
4) 50,000 people living near the airport are "subjected to a level of noise higher than the standard deemed acceptable by the Federal Aviation Administration" (though this is also true of people living near JFK and Newark).
So what does Haikalis propose instead?
1) Expand service at JFK and Newark. "Kennedy, with its two sets of parallel runways, could handle many more flights, particularly as new air-traffic control technology is introduced in the next few years."
2) Eliminate the small jets that make up most of LaGuardia's traffic to improve airline efficiency. Many of these regional flights could be rerouted to smaller airports outside the city.
3) Create a fast, easy transit link between Manhattan and JFK. Haikalis says that the popularity of LaGuardis is thanks to its proximity to Manhattan. A cab ride during off peak hours takes just 20 minutes, and "a world-class, direct rail trip to Kennedy could match" that. Haikalis says the $4B budgeted for LaGuardia would be better spent on "a long-proposed one-ride express-rail link between Manhattan and J.F.K., by reviving a long-disused, 3.5-mile stretch of track in central Queens and completing the modernization of the terminals at Kennedy."
All of these ideas seem reasonable, but it's Haikalis's proposal for what could replace LaGuardia that will likely stir up the most debate:
Finally, think of what the 680 acres of city-owned land on which La Guardia sits could be used for. If built at the density of Co-Op City in the Bronx — which has around 15,000 housing units on 338 acres — it could accommodate over 30,000 homes. Even more could be built in nearby areas, where growth is currently restricted because of La Guardia's flight paths. This would contribute significantly toward Mr. de Blasio's plan to develop 200,000 units of affordable housing.It's good to have dreams, isn't it?
· Don't Rehab La Guardia Airport. Close It. [NYT]
· What If LaGuardia Airport Expanded Into the Bronx? [Curbed]
· All LaGuardia Airport coverage [Curbed]