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E. Farmingdale Republic Airport Vision Plan Under Way

Airport Officials Request Input from Community on Future of Airport

Republic Airport in East Farmingdale is in the beginning stages of its Vision Plan, airport officials said.

The airport has hired DY Consultants, a Roslyn-based consulting firm, to prepare a Vision Plan and Statement for the airport.

“Airports by their very nature are complex; this Vision Plan is a small component of where the airport is going,” said Gary Lewi, a spokesperson for Republic Airport, at a recent media briefing on the Vision Plan.

The airport, which opened in 1928, is a general aviation airport and has business and recreational flights. The airport doesn’t have commercial flights.

The Vision Plan asks, “Where is the airport going from here?” Republic Airport Director Michael Geiger said at the briefing on April 16. “The goal is to develop several scenarios where the airport can hopefully come up with a plan that works for most people. Set guidelines for where the airport goes in the future,” he stated.

Back in February, at a Republic Airport Commission Meeting, airport officials discussed the Vision Plan and addressed some concerns.

One resident, Helen, requested that the airport do a Master Plan, instead of a Vision Plan. She was concerned with the airport leaving its general aviation status behind and servicing corporate jets, that “are not servicing Long Island travelers; the airport is just a conduit for them, for people flying to New Jersey and New York City.”

At the April 16 meeting, Geiger said the airport has no plans to become an airport for commercial flight. He also said the airport had attempted three Master Plans in the past, none of which were completed.

“The contents of a Master Plan are very specific,” Republic Airport Manager Shelley LaRose-Arken said. “There are multitudes of things to touch on in a Vision Plan.”

“The Vision Plan is open, whereas the Master Plan is so specific,” said Subimal Chakraborti, NYS Department of Transportation regional director. “The Vision Plan allows for much more input from the community. A Master Plan requires a lot of analysis that sometimes doesn’t even happen, the Vision Plan is conceptual.”

The Vision Plan, which Chakraborti said is costing $400,000, will be built with input from the community. The consultants have met with employees in the FAA control tower at the airport, community civic groups and elected officials and are going to meet with the airport’s tenants next. With the information they are gathering they hope to develop visions and goals for the airport, one consultant said.

Longtime opponents of a Vision Plan, board members of the Concerned Citizens Association of Farmingdale, drafted a letter to elected officials in February, saying  “A so-called $400K ‘vision plan’ is no substitute for a Master Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. A Master Plan is the right tool to project/measure reasonable and sustainable growth.”

“The lack of local zoning jurisdiction is truly unimaginable,” the letter said. “So thinks the Town of Babylon as they have had an ongoing lawsuit requesting that jurisdiction. The airport should not be exempt, draft a Master Plan and have Babylon Town oversee any development.”

DY Consultants are in the midst of the first step in a five-step process. Step one is meeting with the community. After that, workshops will be held, and then they will develop visions. An analysis and finally a public opportunity to comment on visions will end the process.

The NYSDOT, which runs the airport, has final say on the Vision Plan with advice and input from the consultants, Chakraborti said.

The Vision Plan should be “practical, visible, achievable,” Chakraborti said.

Gieger said that the airport has no plan to expand the fence line of the existing airport. It is possible however, that the airport will expand on its existing buildings, adding more square footage, Geiger said.

“We won’t propose anything illegal and we will abide by existing leases with tenants,” Geiger said. For example, curfews are not allowed at airports, Geiger said. If residents request one, it won’t be feasible.

“We’re looking to go much more public, to reach out to the communities,” Geiger said.

So far, community members have expressed interest in the airport’s communication with the community, the economic benefit of Republic Airport’s endeavors and noise from the airport, a consultant said.

Regarding input from the community, Chakraborti said “If they say ‘we want this thing to be added,’ we’ll look into it if it’s practical.”

“Surprisingly there’s been a lot of common ground” between Republic Airport and the community, one consultant said.

Republic Airport currently has questionnaires on their website; one for residents and community members and one for airport tenants. Questionnaires will also be made available to local libraries soon and residents are encouraged to fill one out.

The consultants hope to address the final visions by fall 2010.