Westchester County Airport was created shortly after World War II ended and was used as a small local airport. Since then, it has grown to become the third largest airport in New York. But airport expansion can be a double-edged sword, and this growth has come with air pollution, noise, and risks to a nearby reservoir, which is the main water source for many people in New York.
On April 6th, there was an announcement that the County would be going forward with its master plan for the Westchester Airport. Then, on May 4th, the Westchester County Executive George Latimer publicized the details for this plan. The plan for the airport is to improve an 80-year-old terminal. The reasoning for this is to fulfill FAA requirements for airports that receive federal funding, and take advantage of the opportunity to bring in different and new carriers. Additionally, the goal is to expand the routes so that they can go farther. The original plan of expansion was to begin in February 2020, but due to the pandemic, this was put off until a later date.
Another reason for expanding the airport is to prevent private flights from becoming more frequent. They already make up around 85% of the flights at the airport. Due to federal laws, there are different limits regarding timing of flights, volume, and flight paths of the aircraft. There is a voluntary curfew from midnight to 6:30 AM at Westchester County Airport, which gets violated on average about ten times per night, even though this curfew has been set for decades. Not every change is about expansion: one aspect of airport operations being limited is the airport capacity, due to environmental factors.
People have been very split on the question of airport expansion. Some locals believe that expansion is necessary, while others oppose it because it will be disruptive and harder on people who provide transportation to and from the airport. Residents that live close to the Westchester County Airport are also concerned about the noise; the planes in the area already are so loud and frequent. Will this make it worse? The airport has 1,485 employees that work full-time and has $735 million in economic activities. Latimer has explained that there are two sides to this and that the expansion will affect all of Westchester County greatly. As he stated in WestFair Online, “Everybody may not use it but some people work there and some people may fly out of there for personal reasons, some people may work for corporations that use the airport, as well as those people who live around the airport. We need to hear all the voices.” Latimer emphasizes that he is working to engage as many citizens as possible.
Latimer is calling on residents, business communities, different environmental groups, community organizations, and others to join in and help with the process for this new plan. He is also allowing for people in Connecticut to engage in discussion and ideas proposed regarding the master plan. Along with that, Latimer disclosed that there would be a meeting with county officials from Greenwich to review the expansion of the airport. Finally, he stated that there will be at least one virtual meeting scheduled. Latimer is strongly encouraging people to support the expansion of Westchester County airport.