East Haven Hires Lawyers Over Tweed New Haven Airport Concerns

July 22, 2022

Jul. 21—NEW HAVEN — East Haven has hired two outside law firms to represent it with regard to proposed expansion of Tweed New Haven Regional Airport, with Mayor Joe Carfora telling the Town Council that months of meetings have resulted in "offers that simply do not address the root concerns about this proposed move to East Haven."

As a result, "we still seek information and still have serious concerns" about the proposal to build a $70 million, 74,000-square-foot terminal on the East Haven side of the New Haven-owned airport, Carfora told the council in a letter prior to an hours-long closed-door executive session.

The proposal also would move the main airport entrance to the East Haven side.

"Frankly, we have talked with, and inquired of host cities throughout the country," Carfora wrote Tuesday. "But for me it always comes back to the simple fact that the benefits to the region, New Haven, and Yale cannot be placed in higher regard than the impact that this expansion will have on our town, those who live near Tweed, and those who are in the air-flight paths."

So does this mean East Haven now will actively fight expansion?

Town officials wouldn't say.

Town Attorney Michael Luzzi said East Haven "without question" hired Pullman & Comley and DSR, LLC, whose principal is Daniel S. Reimer, "to protect East Haven's interests."

He wouldn't comment further.

Carfora said via text message that "both firms offer expertise in aviation matters and the FAA. It is crucial that we engage specialized legal representation at this juncture, to ensure the interests of our town remain protected, especially in anticipation of the Environmental Assessment study."

"We look forward to their advice on everything from environmental impacts, land use, zoning, traffic, noise, public safety, and any other FAA considerations," Carfora said.

"As I said in my letter to the Town Council, it is not reasonable that the majority of jet parking, all flight arrivals and departures, public safety impacts, along with all passenger parking be placed on the East Haven side without protecting our community," Carfora said.

"This hiring does not mean that there will not be continued discussion with Tweed and its stakeholders," Carfora said. "It simply means that we want the appropriate assets in place now, prior to the release of the hard data that will impact all East Haven residents."

Tweed New Haven Airport Authority Executive Director Sean Scanlon responded by saying, "We think it's great someone with aviation experience is advising the city and we are confident they will come to the same conclusion we did when we first put together this transformative deal.

"A more vibrant airport is good for East Haven and all of southern Connecticut and we know that because we're already seeing tremendous benefits even before the actual expansion," Scanlon said.

Those include "200-plus new community jobs, 14 non-stop destinations and counting, and over 222,000 people — many of which live in East Haven — flying in and out in just nine months," Scanlon said. "The airport's overwhelming recent success plus the community benefits agreement we've discussed with the city is a win for East Haven."

Avports, LLC, the Goldman Sachs-owned company that operates the airport, would pay the entire cost of improvements under the terms of a 43-year sub-lease that the Board of Alders appoved last year. The lease, which Avports is negotiating with the airport authority, has yet to be signed.

"It's a good thing that East Haven is getting outside expertise to help guide them through this process," said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker. "Airports are complex and having someone that has deep knowledge that is aligned with one's town's interests is important."

That said, "We've been in conversations over the past few months with East Haven and will continue working" to find solutions, he said.

"There's already been benefits discussed, including $5 million in community benefits" for traffic calming and other measures that Avports agreed to pay for, to be split between New Haven and East Haven, Elicker said.

East Haven also benefits from jobs that growth at Tweed and Avelo Airlines, which serves Tweed, spurs, Elicker said.

In addition, East Haven will receive "several million in permit fees" as a result of Tweed expansion and is likely to see "a significant increase in development around the airport" as a result of it, he said.

"But I don't blame Mayor Carfora for advocating for his city, just like we did on the New Haven side," Elicker said. 

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