NEW YORK (PIX11)—After U.S. Airways Flight 1549 cruised to a perfect splash landing and Captain "Sully" Sullenberger made sure all 150 people got off the plane alive, passengers started paying attention to just how deadly birds over an airport can be.
But now the F.A.A. is turning a blind eye to the problem, basically saying in a federal court of appeals today that their hands are tied to stop potentially deadly bird strikes at LaGuardia Airport.
The problem all stems over New York's City's bid to build a giant trash transfer station across Flushing Bay. It's close to finished--and no one seems to be able to stop it.
Anyone who's ever seen trash in action knows it's a magnet for birds, which see it as food. New York City has been embroiled in an on-going fight to get its North Shore Transfer Station, which will host 3,500 tons daily of New York garbage just 700 yards from LaGuardia's runways, up and running. It's largely built now, and should be on-line within a year.
Randy Mastro is a former Deputy Mayor for the City of New York. He's an attorney too. "That's a grave concern. It's a disaster waiting to happen. It's a monumentally bad idea," intoned Mastro, pulling no punches.
And now he's going up against the F.A.A. in court to point out since they give NYC millions of dollars a year to run and build stuff at LaGuardia, they can tell NYC not to put a trash facility really near by, bringing in flocks of killer birds.
But the F.A.A. doesn't see it that way. Their lawyers argued in court today that NYC doesn't actually own LaGuardia. The land under LaGuardia, sure. But not the airport. Therefore, the F.A.A. can't tell the City what to do to keep passengers safe. And yes, you guessed where this is going, the F.A.A. won't hold the Port Authority (they run the airport) accountable either. For some similarly inscrutable reasons.
Bottom line: The F.A.A., which doles out hundreds of millions in tax dollars every year (your money), won't tell a city that what it's doing is possibly endangering lives. Because of some really difficult to understand funding/accountability rules.
Hero pilot Sullenberger has joined the fight with a not-for-profit group called "Friends of La Guardia Airport." He's not getting paid for his lobbying efforts to make sure the trash facility never opens. He was pretty straightforward. "That's fundamentally a bad idea. We can't rely on another miracle."
The Federal Aviation Administration argued in court today that four separate studies say the bird population won't increase when 3,500 tons daily of garbage gets moved to the new North Shore Marine Transfer Station, and that there are no rules preventing the project from continuing.
But the attorneys for the Friends of LaGuardia see that differently. "We already have a bird problem and by building this transfer station we are introducing a new food source to the area which will attract birds."
Neither the NYC Sanitation Department, nor the FAA or Port Authority would comment for our story. The appeals court won't rule for several months--and the transfer station is slated to open within a year.