United we grow, divided we fail


Open letter to the City Council:

I was appalled this morning to read that the Warwick City Council is attempting to challenge the FAA “Record of Decision” for the runway extension project.

I have been residing at 32 Gladys Court in Warwick since 1967, and I have watched the growth of T.F. Green Airport, along with the growth of the city of Warwick. The growth of the city was largely due to the growth of the airport, and the need for the establishment of new businesses and hotels to support that growth.

After more than a decade of negotiating back and forth between the Airport Corporation and the Mayor of Warwick, a “Record of Decision” by the FAA to proceed with the runway extension has been issued. The affected homeowners finally felt that they will have certainty as to where they stand with their properties. Many of them have been putting off much-needed repairs and improvements to their properties, pending the final decision on the extension.

Now, the Warwick City Council has voted to challenge the “Record of Decision” on the grounds that “the FAA did not do its due diligence in protecting the health and environmental threats the airport poses to Warwick residents.” Those are the words of Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson. She also said, “This is not about [being] anti-airport, it is pro-Warwick.” The environmental threats that Councilwoman Camille is concerned with actually have no bearing on the proposed runway extension. Those threats already exist, and have always existed. So, to satisfy her concerns, the airport itself would have to be shut down in its entirety! That’s plain ridiculous.

If you, as members of the City Council, want to be pro-Warwick, then you need to expand your thoughts beyond just wetland pollution, to the very health and safety of our children. Councilman Joseph Solomon is said to be concerned about the residents being exposed to the carcinogens from aircraft, yet neither he, nor any of the other Council members, seem to be alarmed that many of our children are often playing soccer directly under the departing and arriving aircraft at the Winslow Soccer Field, and have long been breathing the pollution from the overhead aircraft. Carcinogens are common to locations around airports, and allowing children to play sports which require excessive breathing directly under aircraft approach and departure paths, (that are only a couple of hundred feet or so off the ground) is not commonly allowed around airports. So, why are you not concerned about that? It’s been going on for years, Council Members.

It is my understanding that allowing sports or play areas on airport boundaries is not a policy condoned by the FAA. It is also my understanding that the Airport Corporation can close such areas without any reason at any time. I also distinctly recall reading in the newspaper that the Airport Corporation has willingly agreed to re-locate the Winslow Baseball and Soccer Fields to a much safer location when the extension is underway, at no cost to the City of Warwick. Therefore, that removes the current threat of carcinogens to our children and their families and friends who attend functions at the Winslow Fields.

Should the runway extension project be rejected, and the Airport Corporation closes the fields, our children will not have any place to conduct their sport activities without an expense to the City of Warwick that will climb much higher than the $65,000+ that you, as members of the City Council, and Mayor Avedisian, have agreed to spend on this lawsuit, even though the Mayor says, “it is unlikely that the city would prevail.” Not to mention the millions of dollars already spent for a walkway from a train station that won’t survive without the growth of the airport. That’s a mighty expensive treadmill.

A good guestimate would be that about 90% of the homes and businesses that are affected by the expansion were built after the airport was established, and City Hall houses the plans and drawings from the early days of the airport’s existence that show the airport expanding all the way to the cove in Apponaug in the future.

I am a firm believer that the growth of the airport is essential to the growth of Warwick. My property may or may not become a mandatory acquisition for the extension, but either way, I want to know where I stand with it. Ten years is a ridiculously long time to be kept in limbo. Regardless of whether the extension goes forward or not, I am committed to the protection of our children and their families, and I will fight the City of Warwick tooth and nail until the Winslow Soccer Field is relocated. Any politicians who oppose that should hang their heads in shame for not protecting our children.

The attached photo of an airliner landing right over the heads of dozens of children needs no explanation as to its purpose. So, if you are genuinely concerned with the health and safety of the residents, you should let the airport be the airport, and focus on the needs of the community as it prepares for the growth of Warwick.

Wherever there is an airport, there will always be certain elements of pollution that go along with it. It is a constant that will never be eliminated completely. Let’s share in the growth and prosperity of our city, instead of trying to divide it. “United we Grow, Divided we fail.”

So, Mr. Solomon, it would be a pleasure to see you be the first “to put a shovel in the ground” to start construction of a new Winslow Soccer Field in a safer location.

George A. Townsend


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George: RIAC is sitting on $47,456,627 in an unallocated cash account. Perhaps you should ask its board to use some of that money to buy your house. Also ask the board to compensate the city for Winslow Park a property that was far out of harm's way when the city bought it. Here's another thought that could ease our tax burden: RIAC should pay the city for streets that it "takes" when it expands operations including the streets under the proposed ball fields. And make sure your remind RIAC to build the same number of fields that it closes down at Winslow.

Friday, November 25, 2011