By Richard Kaufman
Back on July 27, residents gathered at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, N.Y. for a public hearing on the draft master plan for the Westchester County Airport.
The plan, put together by DY Consultants and presented at the hearing by company president Dennis Yap, calls for the spending of $462 million over the next 15 years to construct two new parking garages, a corporate jet hangar and a facility for U.S. Customs and Westchester County Police.
Although the executive summary of the plan indicated that no airport expansion was desired, residents were skeptical, saying that there’s perhaps an impetus to increase utilization and expand types of destinations which in turn could bring in larger planes and increase air traffic.
Many residents acknowledged the need to address some of the modern necessities, such as proper bathrooms, parking and staging areas, but to do so without expansion.
Although the airport calls Westchester County home, its closest neighbor, Greenwich, would be impacted by the master plan as well.
“We hear, we smell, we taste all the different things that are remnants from the airport being there,” said Allen Williams, president of the North West Greenwich Association, at the hearing. “We tolerate the airport; we know it’s not going away. We try to do the best we can to live with it, but we’re very concerned about things we’ve been hearing.”
Williams also pointed out that he serves on the Greenwich Westchester Task Force, which meets with local communities and homeowner groups. “We had a meeting [last Thursday morning], and when it came time to talk about the airport, everybody is very, very concerned.”
Williams called the airport “a good asset to the area”, and said he thinks that Greenwich and Connecticut residents as a whole use the airport more than Westchester. “We want it to stay exactly as it is,” he said.
First Selectman, Peter Tesei, was also in attendance at the hearing and issued a statement on the master plan last Friday.
“The Westchester County Airport master plan as presented Thursday night is a blueprint with several concerns for all of Greenwich, not just for residents in the Northwest corner,” he said.
Tesei also said that the plan “must be reviewed thoroughly to determine all of the long-term impacts – environmental, public safety, public health, quality of life including traffic – upon Greenwich and its municipal neighbors.”
Tesei urged residents, especially those impacted by incoming and outgoing flights from the airport, to check out the detailed development plan on the county’s website at airport.westchestergov.com/news-and-public-notices.
“It was residents’ determined resolve and commitment several years ago that helped to keep to a minimum, the development and expansion of the airport,” Tesei said of the last master plan which was in 1986. “Greenwich is working with our neighbors in Rye Brook as well as the Northwest Greenwich Association to ensure any revisions to the airport master plan do not infringe upon their quality of life.”
There was also concern, although it wasn’t the focus of the hearing, about the desire for privatization for the airport. Currently, the County has received three bids from companies looking to manage the facility.
“We also must be vigilant to see whether the proposed privatization of the airport operations will be approved by the Westchester County Legislature and be ready to determine the impact that will have upon Greenwich as well,” Tesei concluded in his statement.