Connecticut Communities Join New York In Opposing Airspace Redesign Scheme

OCTOBER 5, 2007

Town officials from Fairfield County and New York are joining forces to oppose flight pattern changes around LaGuardia Airport approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA plan would shift LaGuardia arrivals east over Fairfield County and some New York suburbs to reduce delays. But local officials say the changes would bring more noise and pollution to the region.

Town officials met Thursday and agreed to hire a law firm, lobbyist and advocacy firm to fight the FAA's plan. The effort could end up costing the municipalities about $1 million, officials said. The all-day meeting included local government leaders from Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien, Wilton, Stamford, Norwalk, Weston, Westport, Redding, Ridgefield and Pound Ridge, N.Y. They interviewed firms but did not announce who they hired.

"We have been advised by numerous counsels, including those there today, that this is a political fight, not just a legal battle," New Canaan First Selectman Judy Neville said. "You're not going to win without the whole nine yards." The towns will share the costs based on their populations and geographical sizes, but there is no agreement yet on a formula, she said.

Stamford has set aside $30,000 for the effort. Darien First Selectman Evonne Klein said she plans to urge local finance officials to approve $30,000 initially and possibly another $20,000 next year.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he is also planning to challenge the FAA plans, but he will focus on the interests of the state as a whole. "They need their own lawyers because their interests are distinct and separate from the state," Blumenthal said. "If the effect of the lawsuit were to direct more air traffic over Danbury or Canaan, we would be equally determined to avoid that harm."

The FAA announced new flight patterns in the congested airspace around New York and Philadelphia in March. Officials in suburban Philadelphia filed a similar suit last month.

Agency officials said the plan will ease delays, save airlines money and bring desperately needed efficiency to a patchwork airspace map that has been unchanged since the 1960s. But some communities in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware will see noisy jets flying over them for the first time.