Members of Long Island's congressional delegation joined forces Monday morning to oppose the possible relocation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control centers off of Long Island, including the TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) facility located in E. Garden City.
A TRACON facility contains radar operations from which air traffic controllers direct aircraft during the departure, descent and approach phases of flight.
The FAA plans to build a $95 million air traffic control facility within 150 miles of New York City, according to a recent Long Island Business Aviation Association report.
The TRACON facility and the Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) in Ronkonkoma would be consolidated into a single Integrated Control Facility (ICF) for NYC-area airports including JFK, LaGuardia and Newark.
The new facility would house hundreds of air traffic controllers as part of NextGen, the agency's nationwide program to use satellite navigation for commercial flights instead of the ground-based radar system used since the 1950s.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who was joined by Reps. Tim Bishop, Peter King and Steve Israel, said she and her colleagues are fighting to make sure workers aren't displaced.
"Long Island's rich aviation history and pool of skilled workers make it the perfect place for air traffic control of our region's airports," she said. "It could also be cheaper for the FAA and for taxpayers to use existing workers rather than to relocate or train new ones."
Jan Burman, president of the Association for a Better Long Island (ABLI), estimates 900 jobs paying an average $100,000 would be lost to the region, putting a significant drain on Long Island. "You don't let talented, high-paying jobs leave the region," he said. "They never come back."
Ed Blumenfeld, ABLI past president, said the FAA could consolidate its operations at a number of locations on Long Island, including Mitchel Field and the former Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Islip. He also suggested the Calverton property that was once home to the Tomcat F-14 fighter.
Another site suggested for consideration is the Nassau County Hub, according to a report by the Long Island Business Aviation Association.
"Clearly, an audit of available property will demonstrate there are areas that could accommodate the facility the FAA is considering," Blumenfeld said. "By doing so, we would prevent the dislocation of hundreds of families, the loss of jobs and the enormous cost of relocation."
Dozens of paper airplanes placed in front of the E. Garden City facility Monday were intended to symbolically underscore how many aircraft fly over Long Island skies in a 24-hour period.
"We've got the noise, we might as well have the jobs," Blumenfeld said.