United States v. New York
Cite as: 552 F.Supp. 255


UNITED STATES of America and Beechcraft East, Inc., Plaintiffs
The STATE OF NEW YORK and William Hennessey, As Commissioner of the
Department of Transportation of the State of New York, Defendants.

No. 82-CV-993.


Oct. 14, 1982


Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., U.S. Atty., Albany, N.Y., for plaintiff United States of America; William P. Fanciullo, Asst. U.S. Atty., Albany, N.Y., R. John Seibert, Attorney, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., of counsel.

James J. von Oiste, Port Jefferson, N.Y., for plaintiff Beechcraft East, Inc.

Robert Abrams, Atty. Gen. of the State of New York, New York City, for defendants; Barrie L. Goldstein, David B. Roberts, Asst. Attys. Gen., Albany, of counsel.

MINER, District Judge.


In this action plaintiffs, the United States and Beechcraft East, Inc., seek a judgment declaring unconstitutional the statute originally introduced as New York Senate Bill No. 9450-A (S. 9450-A), entitled "AN ACT to amend the transportation law, in relation to air transportation facilities and services at Stewart and Republic airports and making appropriations therefor." Plaintiffs also seek to permanently enjoin defendants, the State of New York and William Hennessey, as Commissioner of the Department of Transportation of the State of New York, from imposing a curfew or turning off runway lights, navigation aids, and landing and take-off aids at Republic Airport, East Farmingdale, New York. The complaint is predicated upon the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, as amended, 49 U.S.C. s 1301 et seq., the Noise Control Act of 1972, as amended, 49 U.S.C. s 1431, and the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970, 49 U.S.C. s 1701 et seq., as well as the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution, U.S.Const. Art. I, s 10, and the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, U.S.Const. Art. VI, cl. 2. [FN 1] Jurisdiction is conferred upon this Court by 28 U.S.C. ss 1331, 1337 and 1345. Before this Court is plaintiff Beechcraft East, Inc.'s application for a preliminary injunction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a).

[FN 1] Beechcraft East, Inc.'s motion to intervene in this action pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a) was granted by this Court on October 7, 1982. Beechcraft, in addition to the claims listed above, alleges violation of the Commerce Clause, U.S.Const. Art. I s 8, cl. 3. All of Beechcraft's claims are apparently based upon 42 U.S.C. s 1983. National Aviation v. City of Hayward, 418 F.Supp. 417, 429 (N.D.Cal.1976). Jurisdiction is pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ss 1331 and 1337.


Republic Airport, located in Suffolk County, Long Island, is a general aviation airport known as a "reliever airport." In this capacity, Republic relieves New York's major commercial airports, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia, and Newark, of general (non-commercial) aircraft. It is one of only four airports in the New York City metropolitan area whose primary function is as a reliever airport, capable of accommodating all aircraft types, around the clock, in all weather conditions. [FN 2] In addition to the importance of Republic Airport as a reliever airport, the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"), Eastern Region, bases its aircraft at the airport because of ready availability on short notice.

[FN 2] The other three reliever airports for general aviation include Teterboro Airport, Teterboro, New Jersey, Morristown Airport, Morristown, New Jersey and the Westchester County Airport, near White Plains, New York.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority ("MTA") is a public benefit corporation created by special act of the New York State Legislature. N.Y. Public Authorities Law s 1260 et seq. It has the power to enter into contracts, s 1265(6), and to acquire and hold real property, s 1265(7). The MTA is independent and is not governed by the supervisory powers of the New York State Department of Transportation, s 1266(8). The MTA may be sued, s 1265(1), and held liable in tort for money damages, s 1276.

The MTA was given the authority by the State of New York to own and operate airports in 1965. In 1967, the State authorized, pursuant to the Transportation Capital Facilities Bond Act, the creation of a state debt in the amount of $250,000,000 for the purpose of the acquisition, reconstruction and improvement of airports in the State by public benefit corporations, including the MTA. In March, 1969, the State, by the Transportation Department, for the use of the MTA, purchased 296 acres from the Farmingdale Company for the enlargement of Republic. [FN 3] During the 1970s the State, for the MTA, acquired an additional 144 acres from private owners.

[FN 3] Republic Airport originally consisted of about 100 acres and began its life as an airfield used by various aircraft related firms in 1928. In 1965 the airport was open to the public for the first time. Today, Republic is comprised of 535 acres and has two hard-surfaced runways.
On May 6, 1971, pursuant to the authority of 49 U.S.C. s 1115, the United States conveyed approximately 97 acres to the MTA, thus completing the Republic Airport site. The MTA, in exchange for the conveyance of Republic Airport property, expressly covenanted in the deed of conveyance:
That all facilities of the Airport developed with Federal Aid and all those useable for landing and taking off of aircraft will be available to the United States at all times, without charge, for use by aircraft of any Agency of the United States in common with other aircraft....
Deed, P 8 (covenant 8). MTA also promised in the deed that "any subsequent transfer of property interests conveyed hereby will be made subject to all of the covenants, conditions and limitations contained in the instrument." Deed, P 5 (covenant 5).

During the past eleven years of MTA's ownership of Republic Airport, the United States, through the Federal Aviation Administration, has made nine grant awards to MTA for acquiring and improving the facilities at Republic. These awards totaled $6,820,782. The improvements have included, inter alia, the installation of navigational equipment, runway lighting, improvement of runway markings, and construction of drainage and fencing.

Among the covenants included in the grant agreements are the following:

(1) ... not [to] dispose of or encumber its title or other interests of the site and facilities during the period of federal interest or while the Government holds bonds, whichever is longer. (Assurance No. 10; Affidavit of Clarence Cook, Ex. H);

(2) The sponsor [MTA] will not enter into any transaction which would operate to deprive it of any of the rights and powers necessary to perform any or all of the covenants made herein, unless by such transaction the obligation to perform all such covenants is assumed by another public agency found by the FAA to be eligible under the Act and Regulations to assume such obligations and having the power, authority, and financial resources to carry out all such obligations. (Assurance No. 32; Affidavit of Clarence Cook, Ex. H);

(3) The Sponsor [MTA] will operate the Airport as such for the use and benefit of the public. In furtherance of this covenant (but without limiting its general applicability and effect), the Sponsor specifically agrees that it will keep the Airport open to all types, kinds, and classes of aeronautical use on fair and reasonable terms without discrimination between such types, kinds, and classes. Provided; That the Sponsor may establish such fair, equal, and not unjustly discriminatory conditions to be met by all users of the Airport as may be necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the Airport; And Provided Further, That the Sponsor may prohibit or limit any given type, kind, or class of aeronautical use of the Airport if such action is necessary for the safe operation of the Airport or necessary to serve the civil aviation needs of the public. (Assurance No. 18; Affidavit of Clarence Cook, Ex. H) [emphasis added];

(4) The Sponsor [MTA] will operate and maintain in a safe and serviceable condition the Airport and all facilities thereon and connected therewith which are necessary to serve the aeronautical users of the Airport other than facilities owned or controlled by the United States, and will not permit any activity thereon which would interfere with its use for airport purposes;

Provided, That nothing contained herein shall be construed to require that the Airport be operated for aeronautical uses during temporary periods when snow, flood, or other climatic conditions interfere with such operation and maintenance; And Provided Further, That nothing herein shall be construed as requiring the maintenance, repair, restoration or replacement of any structure or facility which is substantially damaged or destroyed due to an act of God or other condition or circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor. In furtherance of this covenant the Sponsor will have in effect at all times arrangements for:

a. Operating the airport's aeronautical facilities whenever required.

b. Promptly marking and lighting hazards resulting from airport conditions, including temporary conditions, and

c. Promptly notifying airmen of any condition affecting aeronautical use of the Airport. (Assurance No. 22, Affidavit of Clarence Cook, Ex. H) [emphasis added];

All facilities of the Airport developed with Federal aid and all those usable for the landing and taking off of aircraft, will be available to the United States at all times, without charge, for use by government aircraft in common with other aircraft.... (Assurance No. 26, Affidavit of Clarence Cook, Ex. H) [emphasis added].

In addition to these general covenants, MTA expressly agreed in the second of the nine grant agreements to operate the lighting systems funded by the grant "throughout each night of the year." (Project No. 8-36-0028-02, Government's Ex. 4).

On June 21, 1982, New York Governor Hugh L. Carey signed into law a bill amending the State's Transportation Law by adding Article 15. [FN 4] The Article's central feature is the transfer from the MTA to the New York Department of Transportation of "all rights, title and interest in all assets, equipment and property ... used in connection with the ownership, planning, development, maintenance and operation of ... Republic airport...." Section 400(3)(h). The Commissioner of the Department of Transportation is given the authority to operate Republic and, if he determines it to be "necessary, convenient or desirable", Section 400(3)(b), to enter into a service contract for such operations with the MTA or any other qualified operator, Section 400(3)(h). Until the Commissioner entered into such a contract, the Legislature provided that the MTA, although no longer Republic's owner, should continue to operate the airport for a transitional period not to exceed one year from the effective date of the Article. Section 400(3)(h).

[FN 4] Senate Bill S. 9450-A.
Section 402(1) created the Republic Airport Commission, a citizens' advisory council, to advise the Commissioner. Finally, Article 15, in recognition of noise complaints by inhabitants who live in Republic's vicinity, included a provision, Section 402(3), [FN 5] which imposed a mandatory 11:00 P.M. to 7:00 A.M. curfew at the airport. [FN 6]
[FN 5] Section 402(3) provides:

The arrival or departure of aircraft to or from the airport between the hours of 11 P.M. and 7 A.M., except in the case of emergency, and the development of additional runways at the airport are hereby prohibited, provided, however, that such prohibitions may be altered, modified or changed by resolution adopted by a majority vote of the members of the commission after giving public notice of such alteration, modification or change and holding a public hearing thereon. Any alteration, modification or change which affects the prohibition with respect to arrival and departure of aircraft shall be made only after due consideration has been given to the pe[r]iod of daylight occurring at such airport.

Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this subdivision, the prohibition against the arrival or departure of aircraft to or from the airport between the hours of 11 P.M. and 7 A.M. shall not become effective until ninety days [September 19, 1982] after the effective date of this subdivision.

[FN 6] Defendants allege that Bill S. 9450-A, now Article 15 of the Transportation Law, was eventually passed for three reasons. First, after MTA became Republic's owner in 1969, it experienced substantial operating deficits (for example, $1.4 million in 1979, $2.1 million in 1980, $2.3 million in 1981 and an expected $3.7 million in 1982). Second, the MTA, due to its primary mass transportation function, was unable to devote sufficient time to Republic's operation. Third, Republic's facilities were expected to grow and the Department of Transportation was regarded as a more suitable state agency to foster economic development. (Affidavit of Clarence Cook, P 16). The stated purpose of Article 15 corresponds with the above:

s 400. Air transportation facilities and services at Stewart and Republic airports. 1. In order to meet present and future state needs with respect to the provision of adequate, safe and efficient air transportation facilities and services to the public, and to promote the economic development and well-being of the state, the planning, development, maintenance and operation of such facilities and services at Stewart and Republic airports may be carried out by the department and the commissioner in accordance with the provisions of this article.
The Government alleges that, contrary to the deed and grant covenants, neither the MTA nor the State of New York, at any time, obtained the FAA's permission to transfer ownership of the airport from MTA to the State Department of Transportation or to deny Republic's use to the United States or to other aeronautical users between 11:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. [FN 7] The Government further alleges that New York's decision to turn off runway lights and navigational aids and to declare Republic closed during curfew hours presents serious safety hazards to those using the airport for emergency night time landings, to those intending to land before 11:00 P.M. but delayed for adverse weather conditions or other reasons, and to those intending to use the lighted airport as a navigational aid while going to or from nearby LaGuardia and JFK airports. However, at a September 15, 1982 meeting between counsels of the FAA and the State, defendants agreed not to turn off runway lighting and navigational aids pending litigation of the issues in this case, in exchange for the Government's promise not to seek a preliminary injunction. Notwithstanding defendants' concession on the issue of lighting and navigational aids, defendants declined to rescind transfer of the airport or imposition of the curfew. As a result, the Government filed the instant action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief.
[FN 7] Defendants allege that they indeed obtained FAA approval, but, at the last moment, the FAA refused to formally acquiesce in the transfer. In any event, the curfew provisions of the legislation went into effect September 20, 1982.
Beechcraft East, Inc. ("Beechcraft") is a Kansas corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Kansas and maintains its principal office at Republic Airport, East Farmingdale, New York. On October 1, 1972, Beechcraft and MTA entered into an agreement whereby MTA leased to Beechcraft certain land and facilities at Republic for the purpose of conducting a general aviation facility to provide, among other things, all aviation related services as well as the sale, purchase, rental and lease of aircraft. As a result of that agreement, Beechcraft has expended sums of money in the development of its general aviation facility, purchased properties and equipment necessary to perform its obligations pursuant to the agreement, and has entered into agreements with owners and lessees of aircraft, based at Republic Airport, wherein Beechcraft has agreed to provide twenty-four hour service and flights on demand, as well as cargo transfer and emergency medical flights.

Beechcraft alleges that, as a result of the curfew imposed by the defendants, many of Beechcraft's contract customers gave Beechcraft notice of their intention to relocate to other airports if a curfew is in fact imposed. Beechcraft maintains, moreover, "that as a consequence of the curfew imposed by New York Senate Bill No. 9450-A, Beechcraft East, Inc.'s business has been seriously injured and the very life and continued existence of its business has been put in jeopardy." (Complaint, In Support of Motion for Leave to Intervene, P 13).

Continued in Part Two