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Tweed New Haven Airport Wins Runway Expansion Lawsuit

Lori Mack
CT Public Radio
New Haven Mayor Toni Harp speaking at a press conference at Tweed New Haven Airport

A federal appeals court Tuesday ruled in favor of Tweed New Haven airport following a lengthy lawsuit seeking to extend the runway and attract additional service to the area.

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said the ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York aligns with her vision for the city’s economic development plan.

“Make no mistake, my administration is pleased with this decision,” Harp announced during a packed press conference at the airport. “We hope today’s ruling signals the first step on a path toward improved air service to an estimated one million airline passengers in this market.”

Vin Petrini, Senior Vice President at Yale New Haven Health, also praised the court’s decision.

“Enhanced air service means jobs and the state needs jobs,” he said. Petrini is part of the Tweed Coalition — a group of business leaders, institutional partners, and others charged with making the case for why enhanced air service would benefit the region from an economic perspective.

“We’re an organization that employs 25,000 people from Greenwich to Stonington, Connecticut,” Petrini said of his hospital group. “And I can tell you, Tweed Airport — enhanced service here is critical to our success. It allows us to recruit and draw some of the world’s best minds and the world’s best clinicians, and research scientists to our campus. It allows us to draw patients from all over the country and all over the world.”

The panel of judges ruled that a 2009 state law limiting the runway to its current 5,600 feet — one of the shortest commercial runways in the country — threatened existing airline service and prevented it from attracting more commercial flights.

The ruling, said Hugh Manke, an attorney for the law firm Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, which represents the airport, “confirms a long held position of the federal government that within the boundaries of an airport like Tweed, where commercial service is being provided, neither state or local law can conflict with federal law.”

Meanwhile state Senate President Martin Looney and state Sen. Len Fasano put out a joint press release in response, urging Governor Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Looney said there should be a “community benefits plan for the neighborhoods around Tweed New Haven Airport if there were to be any expansion in the number of flights.”

Fasano said the city and Tweed are breaking a promise to the community. “While today’s ruling concerns state statute, it does not change the fact that a contract still exists between Tweed, East Haven and New Haven,” he said in the statement. “No federal law can invalidate that contract. I have spoken to the East Haven mayor and it is clear that the contract with Tweed is still enforceable, and therefore restrictions are still in place based on that contract.”

Officials said that about $12 million in federal funding was garnered to address issues like noise and flooding in the neighboring community.

Harp ended her remarks at the afternoon press conference with a reminder. 

"The airport was here before one house was built," she said. "So no one built a house or bought a house without knowing that the airport was here."

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