News Article - October 26, 2010

  TINICUM — More than 300 residents attended a meeting slamming the Philadelphia International Airport’s controversial redesign plan Monday evening at the township’s fire house. Hosted by the newly created grassroots organization Residents Against Airport Expansion in Delco (RAAED), the meeting aimed to inform residents of the airport’s alleged greed and shortsightedness in choosing an expansion plan that would destroy 72 homes in the township, said RAAED President Dave McCann.

   The Federal Aviation Administration’s $5.35 billion expansion plan would also displace about 80 businesses in Tinicum, an FAA environmental impact study stated. Tinicum’s annual real estate income would drop by about $216,000, and Interboro School District would lost about $1.8 million in real estate taxes. Delaware County would lose about $283,000 in real estate taxes. The expansion plan also calls for 24.5 acres of the Delaware River to be filled in, making room for a runway.

   Airport officials have previously claimed adding a new runway is the only serious solution to the problems of chronic delays, which caused the airport to be the fourth most congested airport in the nation in 2009. According to airport officials, the completed expansion plan will decrease the average delay by 14.1 minutes per flight. However, McCann said the City of Philadelphia and the FAA have failed to mention the airport’s own role in creating the very delays it seeks to lessen. “The city creates the delays, then uses the delay problem to justify expansion by citing its negative impacts on the region and nation,” he said.

   Citing information obtained by FAA officials and using Southwest Airlines as an example, McCann said the airline applied for 14 daily flights to and from the airport in 2004. The airline is now flying 55 flights per day from the airport, an increase of more than 100 percent, McCann said. “This is not intended to rip Southwest Airlines for coming here,” McCann said. “However, it was very shortsighted on the city’s part.” Though citizens, legislators and various government officials have recommended the utilization of other, smaller area airports to help alleviate congestion, McCann accused airport officials of keeping regional air travel in a strangle hold for steep profits.

   “Philadelphia International Airport is big business,” he said. “They are on record as refusing to work with other airports for regional benefit just so they can retain/control all airport revenue.” He cited a May, 2010 Government Accountability Office report, quoted in the Daily Times, that said “airport officials in Philadelphia told us that they do not want to support federal efforts, including regional airport planning, that could lead to losing or diverting flights form their airport.”

   Philadelphia International Airport spokeswoman Victoria Lupica declined comment on the RAAED meeting. It would be inappropriate for airport officials to comment on a meeting they were not aware of nor invited to, she said. McCann said RAAED supported the use of Philadelphia Northeast Airport as a viable solution for lessening delays. “A Rutgers University Study shows that diverting just 10 percent of Philadelphia International Airport’s flights would reduce flight delays from 23 minutes to 9 minutes,” said McCann. He also said any needed upgrade at Philadelphia Northeast Airport should cost less than the current expansion plan, and would be implemented more quickly.

   At the meeting, Tinicum Township Commissioner Thomas Giancristoforo called the airport’s current plan “a total joke.” “If you read the report, it more or less says Tinicum is going to be devastated,” he said. “This is an issue of survival. This is going to be a long, hard fight.” RAAED organizer Dee Waldeck said if residents choose to nothing in the face of the expansion, they will get nothing — or get what the airport calls “fair market value.” “I’m going to go with my gut and do all I can to expose the truth and infraction until I’m made whole,” she said.

   State Rep. Nick Miccarelli, R-162, of Ridley Park, pledged his support to residents while decrying Philadelphia’s frequent, painful mistakes. “We’ve seen time and time again Philadelphia makes mistakes by the residents of Tinicum,” he said. “We’re not going to let that happen.” During Tinicum attorney Francis Pileggi’s remarks regarding several legal battles against the airport, Tinicum resident Zurdi Dobi stood up and shouted accusations that township commissioners sold the residents out. “That would be the worst idea,” Dobi said, in response to Pileggi’s suggestion of creating an airport authority. “An airport authority would have powers of eminent domain.” Giancristoforo said Dobi was out of order and asked police to remove him from the meeting. Tinicum resident Pat McCarthy said he was tired of being pushed around by the airport. “We’ve tried to work with them for years,” he said. “All they do is take, take, take and give zero.” Township residents, businesses and officials will not know until the FAA’s record of decision is announced in December how they will be affected by the expansion plan.

Source - Daily Times