Hundreds of local residents turned out for a public information meeting on proposed changes to Republic Airport, hosted by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) at Farmingdale's Howitt Middle School on Aug. 3.
Several concerned citizens voiced opposition to plans outlined in the Draft Master Plan Update, devised by aviation consultants for the DOT, the state agency which has operated the airport as a general aviation/commercial reliever facility since the early 1980s.
In particular, the residents are opposed to projects to enhance the airport's takeoff and landing capabilities, such as taxiway widenings, a shift in the placement of the north-south runway (Runway 01-19) that would increase landing space, and upgrading Republic's aircraft design category from II to III to accommodate aircraft with wider wingspans.
Airport officials have said the changes are needed to better accommodate business jets that already use Republic's NW-SE runway (Runway 14-32), by enabling them to safely use the other runway as well. However, community members believe such enhancements would bring a flurry of new jet activity to Republic, such as the 727 jet, which is included in design category III. They fear this especially in light of the fact that the airport's 60,000-pound aircraft weight limitation rule is currently in litigation, after being disputed by local pilots, and therefore is not in effect.
Activists against the plans have noted that the increased noise, air pollution, and safety concerns from increased use of the airport could lead to reduced property values. They urged a stop to the plans, not only at the meeting, but also in literature circulated throughout Farmingdale and the Massapequas. For example, a flier from the Joint Council of Civic Associations of the Massapequas regarding the Draft Master Plan Update states, "Existing built-in constraints, such as narrow runway/taxiway separations, etc., have helped to control the use of Republic. If these infrastructure constraints are eliminated we would be forced to rely on the written protection of legislation, resolutions, and/or rules and regulations that can be removed through litigation or future decisions." It continued, "Therefore, the surest way to control the future use of Republic airport is to limit the size of the facilities which have been adequate for the small planes squeezed out of nearby commercial service airports."
While the bulk of Republic's current operations consists of use by small, single- and double- engine planes, the activists fear the enhancements would lead to an increase in not only jet use, but also cargo and charter operations, which are also conducted there.
Following the meeting, Republic Airport released a statement that noted that the proposed Master Plan will continue Republic's role as a general aviation airport, leaving scheduled airline service to use JFK, LGA and Long Island MacArthur airports, and that Republic's operation will continue with a Limited Operating Certificate from the FAA. "No runway would be lengthened, widened or made to accommodate heavier aircraft than presently used at Republic," stated an airport spokesperson. "Taxiways, parallel to Runway 01-19, (which runs north to south) would be set back in order to accommodate Design Group III. Runway 14-32, which runs northwest to southwest, presently accommodates Design Group III Aircraft."
According to Republic Airport Commission Chairman Frank Nocerino, the commission will review the Draft Master Plan Update, consider the remarks and comments from the hundreds of residents who attended the meeting, and then "seek to ensure that Republic Airport remains a vital link for the region's economy."