April 26–NEW HAVEN — Nearly 100 people turned out Wednesday night to address an aldermanic committee on possible extension of the runway at Tweed New Haven Regional Airport, with sizeable numbers speaking both in favor and against a proposed resolution in support of it.
City and Tweed officials unveiled a number of proposed neighborhood enhancements — including a proposed new roundabout to tame traffic at Dodge Avenue and Burr Street at the airport’s entrance, an "airport jobs zone" to connect residents to work and additional parking along Burr Street — to smooth the way for the extension.
But not all residents were sold on them.
The first public speaker, Sam Sigg of Townsend Avenue, pointed out that for residents who live along the residential streets through which vehicles travel to get to the airport, "The problem with all of those … is that they reduce the amount of traffic by zero."
The resolution is in support of a bill pending in the General Assembly that would remove language restricting the length of the main runway at Tweed to the current 5,600 feet and allow Tweed to pave grassy runway safety areas at either end of the main runway to create a 6,600-foot runway for takeoffs.
Thirty-four people signed up to speak, although not all of them were still there by time their names finally were called.
The Board of Alders’ Community Development Committee took no action. Its chairman, Alder Frank Douglass, D-2, said he will raise the proposed resolution in support of "improvements at Tweed New Haven Airport and through the surrounding community to attract additional air service" at an upcoming meeting of the full Board of Alders.
Those speaking in favor of the resolution included Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Garrett Sheehan, UNITE HERE union Vice President Bob Proto, and Yale New Haven Health System Vice President Vincent Petrini, who is a member of the Tweed New Haven Airport Authority.
They were joined by representatives of companies such as Assa Abloy, Digital Surgeons, the Corsair Apartments and Biorex, along with residents of the Morris Cove neighborhood near the airport and other parts of the city.
An expanded airport "will make a difference and put people to work," said Proto.
Townsend Avenue resident Erik Johnson said he supported the proposed legislation — and said he knew he was moving in near an airport when he bought his house.
Better service out of Tweed would "play a significant role in the economic development of the region," Johnson said.
Those speaking against the resolution were primarily people who live in the adjacent neighborhoods — although they had some support from other parts of the city.
"I don’t support this proposal at all, most of all because you’re being asked to overturn a state law," said resident Gary Doyens, who said he does not live near the airport. Doyens said the restriction on runway length was written into law because it was the only way to get New Haven to comply and "now you’re doing a bum’s rush" to try to get it done.
"What about the people who live in that neighborhood?" he asked.
"Morris Cove has no say over what you do. … You’re going to just do what you want," said Mark Hartney of Lighthouse Road. "So we should just secede from the city" and elect the neighborhood’s own government, he said. "We don’t need New Haven for nothing."
Celestino Cordoba, a resident of the Fair Haven neighborhood, said he favors runway extension and New Haven needs to have more and better options for travel.
Bill Neale of Westbrook, vice president of operations of Radiall, a $400 million, French-owned company in Fair Haven that makes electronic components used in aeronautical applications, said he has flown "hundreds of times" for business, but "never out of Tweed."
He favored the resolution, saying that right now, "New Haven is extremely inconvenient internationally" and "it’s moderately inconvenient domestically."
City and airport officials, including Tweed Authority Executive Director Tim Larson, Deputy Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli, City Engiener Giovanni Zinn and others, talked about the $7 million sound mitigation project currently underway and the additional enhancements.
In addition to the roundabout at Burr and Dodge, Zinn unveiled plans for a raised intersection at Burr Street and Fort Hale Road, speed humps on Fort Hale Road and additional parking on Burr Street north of Hall Street, in addition to a proposed connection of the East Shore Greenway from downtown to Lighthouse Point Park.
But Alfred Street resident Sean O’Brien said that "all of this that we see here today is dropped in our laps now. We’ve seen none of it before — no community engagement."
O’Brien said he has seen no indication that anyone in East Haven, which borders Tweed — and in which half of the airport is located — supports the extension, and "there’s no guarantee" that any runway extension would be limited to the current boundaries.
Nina Fawcett, who said she lives in Newhallville, said, "I am absolutely for this exptension, because I think it’s about connectivity."
___ (c)2018 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.) Visit the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.) at www.nhregister.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.