Our Case

Tweed New Haven airport's operations are not sustainable and have not been stable for decades, relying upon millions of dollars in handouts from Connecticut and New Haven taxpayers to limp through the 21st Century. While the "Tweed experiment" continues, the airport threatens the quality of life, environment, and health of local residents.

Airport director Larson's departure and the Connecticut Airport Authority takeover have been spun as a bright new future for Tweed but are, in fact, an admission of failure. Tweed is not viable as an independent airport and the CAA, a pseudo-public entity that operates most of Connecticut's other airports, must intervene to save it.

In the midst of this upheaval, while Connecticut and New Haven are still in a financial crisis, Tweed boosters are trying to ram through House Bill 7143 which would remove all restrictions on airport expansion.

This is New Haven democracy at work — introduce legislation at the State level before residents and taxpayers can have any input or are even aware of the proposal. It mirrors 2018's "greenwashing" HB 5537, ostensibly about solar panels but actually about airport expansion, which was defeated after the tireless effort of a grassroots coalition of neighbors and local activists. Tweed and City leaders have already heard the reasonable objections of the surrounding community, year after year, but will continue to bully residents until they submit to airport expansion.

HB 7143 will effectively nullify the Tweed-New Haven Airport Authority Act, which currently limits the length of the airport's main runway 2-20 to 5,600 feet. Though New Haven and airport officials have promised an expansion to 6,600 feet and inside current fences, there will be no legal limit to expansion and internal airport plans point to massive expansion by 2030.

The airport's Master Plan calls for a runway length of at least 7,200 feet, and Mayor Harp has ripped up the 2009 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) after deciding the City isn't bound by it. That agreement could have ended decades of conflict between New Haven and East Haven. With the MOA gone and HB 7143 potentially removing all restrictions on Tweed's size, there are no credible grounds for mediation.

Tweed boosters will no doubt weigh in and claim that the cost of expansion will be shouldered by Federal grants and that construction will be limited "inside the current fence". Both claims are disingeuous, and ignore two important facts: Federal grants must be paid back when conditions aren't met and Tweed's own documents set the "break even" point for the airport at 240,000 enplanements. That's a far cry from current (generous) 28-30K numbers.

If an exponential increase in air traffic is necessary for success, the drumbeat for expansion will need to be continuous. This is consistent with the airport's internal plans. If the airport remains a financial albatross, as the past two decades and industry trends suggest, millions of dollars in Federal grants will have to be repaid. For this reason, and others, the 2009 Budget Review Panel recommended that the City "make transferring ownership of Tweed... an urgent priority". It also stated that "the citizens of New Haven receive no quantifiable benefit from Tweed", "there is no direct financial upside to Tweed", and "Tweed represents a significant potential financial liability for New Haven".

HB 7143 was introduced after Tweed lost its taxpayer-funded case against the State of Connecticut, having all of its claims roundly rejected by the Federal court. Tweed's appeal of this case is still pending, and it is hoping that a combination of judicial and legislative pressure will allow it to lift any limits on construction. Tweed and the City have moved from a strategy of faux-engagement with the surrounding community to complete indifference and confrontation. They have heard the voice of residents and they don't like it, so now they will ignore it.

Tweed and the City have dispensed with the smokescreen of goodwill and can't meet with the community in good faith, for any agreement or "benefits package". Residents in New Haven and East Haven now know for certain that there can be no negotiation, that legal agreements will be ripped up on a whim by politicians.

We Remember History

Are bigger planes and more frequent flights inviting another tragedy?

Are bigger planes and more frequent flights inviting another tragedy?

The latest proposal to expand runway at Tweed should be put in historical context, not considered in isolation.  Tweed has a long history of being a bad neighbor, all in the hopes of finishing the Master Plan.

We can’t and won’t trust the airport or City of New Haven officials at their word, especially after Mayor Harp has torn up the “historic2009 agreement between the City and the neighboring Town of East Haven, where half of Tweed's property sits. In the 2018 bid for expansion, New Haven kept East Haven residents and leadership in the dark, just as it ignored them in 2014. In this latest campaign, the City is pretending East Haven doesn't exist.

There were indications that Tweed would discard the MOA as far back as 2011:

“Just a quick history lesson and reminder of what Tweed New Haven Regional Airport is doing and why the need to purchase two small pieces of useless wetlands from East Haven at a price of 1.5 million dollars. In 1999, a master plan was developed for the airport… The plan shows what work was to be performed within four phases of development leading up to a runway length of 7,200 feet. Phase one is complete and phase two, I believe, is as well or if not is almost finished.

So why does the airport need that land? Why, because Tweed needs to own that property to allow for the completion of phases three and four… Phase three calls for the RSAs to be paved and runway 2/20 lengthened to 6,500 feet. Homes at the south end were to be purchased on price agreement and if not, taken by eminent domain. Phase four is to install new RSAs and increase the runway to a final length to 7,200.” ~ East Haven Patch, 2011

Are we supposed to believe that Tweed’s planners won’t be asking for another expansion in a few years (or sooner)? The plan has already been laid out, and Tweed has the judicial, legislative, and municipal influence it needs to get what it wants. New Haven and East Haven residents, as well as concerned people all over Connecticut, need to voice their opposition to Tweed’s expansion and organize against it.

Economic Impact

Tweed has a repetitive cycle of flight expansion and contraction. There has always been contraction. Why would today be any different?

For airlines, it is more likely that profit will continue to rule the day. Small airports will continue to struggle to receive network carrier service.

Experts agree: Small airports are on the decline.

What have we learned from capacity discipline?

“The ‘capacity discipline’ movement has evolved in response to a new profit-driven management focus, as airlines cut unprofitable and redundant flying and minimized the number of empty seats on each departing plane. Many of these cuts came at the expense of small airports, as most network carriers do not possess aircraft that are correctly sized to serve these markets… smaller airports in multi-airport regions may be particularly at risk, as passengers will likely choose to drive to a nearby larger airport to save on airfare or take advantage of more connecting options.” ~ MIT white paper, 2013

Losses at Small Airports are Unlikely to Be Reversed

“‘Most likely, small communities will not be able to recover the same level of service in the near term that they received in the capacity-expansion era,’ the report said. It added, ‘airports in close geographic proximity to major hubs, and those with a systematic lack of local demand, may be at risk of losing all of their network-carrier service in the next five years.'” ~ New York Times, 2014

The latest push to expand the runway at Tweed is an ill-fated effort to fight a nationwide trend.  Will taxpayers foot the bill (yet again) when the effort fails to attract more commercial flights?

Environmental Impact

  • More paved runway means more toxic runoff entering the surrounding creek and Long Island Sound.
  • The southern end of the main runway is built on top of filled wetlands. The proposal will pave more wetland area that is home to diverse wildlife.
  • Will there be more tree topping or removal? Trees provide many ecosystem benefits including noise reduction and filtering the air.
  • Airplane de-icing agents cause far-reaching groundwater and soil changes, especially in cold climates with long winters. Tweed’s executive director stated in March 2015 that the airport was “under siege” to the long and intense winter. Did the use of de-icing chemicals increase as a result?
  • Sea level rise, storm surges, and severe weather increasingly threatens the East Shore, Morris Cove, and Momauguin neighborhoods (with Tweed Airport smack dab in the middle of the flood zone). The most notorious destruction occurred in the 2011 and 2012 hurricane seasons, south of the airport runway Tweed wants to lengthen. Not only does investment in airport expansion divert funds from weather preparation and mitigation for residents, it ignores the potential human and environmental disaster that sustained flooding at a busy airport would cause.

Quality of Life

  • Increased flights mean increased traffic through residential neighborhoods.
  • Concerns for increased asthma levels, respiratory ailments, and lung diseases.
  • Elevated stress to humans and pets due to noise and low flying planes. Decibel levels exceed EPA Health and Safety Standards. Window replacement does not address that people also live outdoors.
  • Increased concern and worry about future devastating accidents. Noise levels are increasing and the system to report violations is inadequate and often disabled.
  • Loss of simple pleasures like opening a window on a nice summer day.

The health risk isn’t limited to Tweed’s neighbors. We won’t know what harm a bigger airport could bring until it’s too late.

Planes’ exhaust could be harming communities up to 10 miles from LAX

“Building on earlier air quality studies, environmental and preventive medicine experts from USC and the University of Washington found concentrations of the wind-driven particles over a 23-square-mile area that includes cities and unincorporated areas along LAX’s flight paths, including Lennox, El Segundo, Inglewood and parts of Los Angeles… ‘This is a very novel and alarming set of results,’ said Ralph Delfino, a professor of epidemiology at UC Irvine who studies the health effects of air pollution and reviewed the study. ‘It’s all very, very surprising.'” ~ Los Angeles Times, 2014