StopTweed.org / VOTE activists on Dateline New Haven

People Power Has Stopped Tweed

May 10, 2018

Communities on New Haven's East Shore and in neighboring East Haven can rest a little easier without the looming threat of Tweed New Haven Airport expansion. Legislation that would have removed limitations on Tweed’s size, Connecticut HB 5537, has been defeated. Once again, the hard work of grassroots activists has prevailed over the maneuvering of powerful institutions and officials. Tweed will remain a small regional airport.

This coalition thanks the State and local legislators who stood with the affected New Haven and East Haven residents and did not acquiesce to lobbying from the City of New Haven.

This latest round in Tweed’s history of clashes with local residents was particularly shameful for the airport and City officials. The proposed legislation was nominally about a community solar plan. However, the bill contained one line that would have amended the Tweed-New Haven Airport Authority Act to eliminate all restrictions on runway length.

Tweed would have been able to pursue the magnitude outlined in the airport’s 1999 Master Plan, which calls for a runway length of 7,200 feet. The bill would have nullified the hard-fought 2009 agreement between New Haven and East Haven, the result of years of struggles and legal battles. At the time, that compromise was lauded as “historic”, “cemented into law”, and the end of conflicts and costly legal battles over Tweed.

Recent pledges by Tweed lobbyists and politicians to only pave a maximum of 6,600 feet have not extinguished the memories of neighboring residents, stirred to action by a long history of broken promises. In 2014, 2015, and now in 2018, the dubious premise of limited Tweed expansion has been rejected by the public.

This echoes the September 2017 ruling of the U.S. District Court on Tweed’s lawsuit against the State of Connecticut. In that case, the airport’s claims were roundly rejected and it was once again blocked from removing limits on runway size. Tweed is now appealing that decision.

HB 5537 was an attempt to obviate the need for such an appeal, at the tail-end of the legislative session and during a budget crisis. The bill was moving through Hartford long before any democratic input by the people who would be most impacted. Community meetings were only scheduled in New Haven after grassroots mobilization, and East Haven had no notification or meetings at all.

Weeks after the bill was introduced, East Shore residents were presented with a “benefits package” from the City. This contained items that had already been promised, such as the completion of Federally-mandated noise abatement. It included vague references to an unrelated shoreline project, an undefined job program, and a traffic structure next to the airport that is already necessary for safety.

The “benefits package” was far too little, far too late. Residents were not convinced, questioning the lack of community input before HB 5537 was in the hands of legislators. Friends and neighbors emphasized the impact of airport expansion on their environment, quality of life, and health. They asked about the cost to ordinary taxpayers, decrying fanciful and baseless projections that hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars would be pumped into the local economy.

Notably, residents reiterated that improvements, maintenance, and services for their neighborhoods should not hinge upon Tweed expansion in a bargaining game with the City.

Despite heavy political pressure, a coalition of citizen activists has resisted and prevailed. Once again, the power of the people has stopped Tweed at 5,600 feet.

- Members of StopTweed.org / Voters Opposed to Tweed Expansion (VOTE)