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About Those LaGuardia Runways, Governor

About Those LaGuardia Runways, Governor

Posted on August 17th, 2015


Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger may still be saving lives.  

The “Hero of the Hudson,” who miraculously landed US Airways Flight 1549 safely on the Hudson River after it was  incapacitated by a flock of geese in January 2009, spoke out Sunday about Governor Cuomo’s deeply flawed proposal to renovate LaGuardia Airport.

Sullenberger told WABC Radio “Mind Your Business” host Yitzchok Saftlas Sunday that LaGuardia needs runway renovations far more than any other fixes.  LaGuardia is infamous for having the most perilous runways of any major airport in America.

“You must fly the approach very accurately, very well,” Captain Sullenberger said. “You must have the airplane flight path exactly aligned with the runway . . . You must touch down at the right altitude at the right speed to allow all that to happen. …often there are winds that you have to contend with, sometimes low visibility, sometimes snow and other challenges, sometimes convective thunderstorms in the summer.  It would be a better airport if [the runways] could be made longer and have better runway safety areas on the … runways that face the water.”

Sullenberger, who will be played by Tom Hanks in an upcoming major motion picture, points to, perhaps, the largest flaw in Cuomo’s plan: How can anyone roll out a massively expensive new LaGuardia proposal without including longer, safer runways? Shouldn’t increased passenger safety be the first priority?

This isn’t the first criticism of Cuomo’s LaGuardia announcement. Others have sharply questioned the governor’s $4 billion price tag for LaGuardia improvements as a figure contrived virtually out of thin air. The true cost of such a renovation has been estimated at many multiples of the Cuomo figure — and that’s without runway work.

But this is what Andrew Cuomo does: He unilaterally announces projects, like a Queens convention center that never happened, or an airtrain link that has neither funding nor support, without expert consensus or foresight. The Port Authority had been meticulously working on a LaGuardia plan for years at great expense, and Cuomo simply ignored it, dropping his plan at a news conference literally out of the blue.  

We’ve seen this in Westchester County, too, where the governor began building a new Tappan Zee Bridge without any realistic plan to fund it. The bridge is partially built and, still, no one knows its true costs. I was behind the push for the new bridge, urging the governor and legislature to build one, but it was supposed to come with transparency and funding. As it is, bridge commuters have no idea how much the toll on the new bridge will cost.

I’m sorry, governor, but this isn’t how you’re supposed to do business. It’s reckless and irresponsible.

Good to see Captain Sullenberger acting like a hero again. Spending billions of dollars on LaGuardia without extending its runways just doesn’t make sense.