10,000 Hawks Group Seeks Open Communication on Tweed Development
For more than two decades, a group of neighbors from East Haven, New Haven, and Fair Haven has focused on the impact that Tweed New Haven Airport has on the community. The group recently renamed itself “10,000 Hawks” as a nod to the number of raptors in the annual hawk migration that takes place over Tweed airspace and the surrounding neighborhood.
The group hosts a weekly phone call on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. via Zoom, open to anyone. Lorena Venegas, an East Haven resident and member of the group, said the group is actively reaching out to local, state, and federal organizations that can provide expertise on the topic of airport expansion in the region to help the group address its growing concerns.
On May 6, officials from Tweed New Haven Airport (HVN) and current airport operator Avports LLC announced a “major agreement” to move the airport forward. They said the $100 million project will not only create thousands of jobs, but bring Avelo Airlines, the country’s first new mainline airline in nearly 15 years, to the East Coast with Tweed as its home base.
Avelo said it will make a $60 million investment in the community, including stationing three 737-700 Next Gen aircraft there by the end of the year and adding more than 100 crew members, including pilots, flight attendants, technicians, and customer support personnel. The investment also includes $1.2 million to help fund improvements to the existing west terminal.
Members of 10,000 Hawks said they are concerned the expansion will come at the expense of their neighborhood, their property values, and even their health.
“Tweed Airport expansion has always been controversial, and now it’s at our doorstep,” said Venegas. She said her concern is that if an exit route on Proto Drive is approved, the entire town could change, and in particular, that the wetland marshes, animal and bird life, and water streams in the area of Proto Drive would be negatively affected.
“Our real estate property values will decline as the Master Plan contains concepts of future eminent domain to the south of airport.”
Venegas said she is also worried that the airport expansion would not only affect local traffic patterns and economic development, but also that it could have a negative effect on the health of residents in the area.
“Our residents and children in Momauguin will be impacted in their health—asthma, respiratory illnesses” due to the possible degradation of air quality in that neighborhood, Venegas said. “Children on school buses will have longer commute times to middle and high schools, putting them in safety risks with more traffic patterns. The Master Plan has a concept that East Haven will build hotels and gas stations on Hemingway, but that is not the economic development strategy to make our town viable. Outside of Bradley airport looks like a dump. We do not want that here.”
In June, 10,000 Hawks created a petition requesting that elected officials open public forums on the topic. The petition states: “Neighbors of Tweed have been promised open communication ‘every step of the way.’...No one has shown us the specifics. Everyone who lives along the flight path will be affected by the increased noise pollution, traffic, and air quality. We need to know what’s happening—for our home values, for the wild spaces surrounding us, and for our children and grandchildren’s health.”
The petition was presented to East Haven Mayor Joseph Carfora, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, and Tweed Executive Director Sean Scanlon. After receiving the petition, Scanlon spoke with the author of the petition and “assured her that we absolutely intend on having numerous public meetings in the coming months.”
Scanlon has stressed the importance of public feedback throughout the process, noting that he has given his personal cell phone number out publicly. Recently, he has been knocking on doors in local neighborhoods to get direct feedback and answer questions, he said.
“It’s also important to remind people that we just wrapped our master plan process in March, and the plan we announced on May 6 was based on the recommendations of that very public process for which there were numerous public meetings,” said Scanlon.
Throughout the process leading up to the expansion of Tweed, 10,000 Hawks has taken part in the airport’s Master Update Plan meetings. On May 6, officials held a press conference about the Tweed Airport expansion, and Venegas said the group was “taken by surprise” by the presentation, noting that the expansion will affect housing and quality of life in several areas of East Haven.
Venegas also expressed concern about a meeting on May 10, that she said was unannounced in advance to the public, that included East Haven Mayor Carfora and Chief of Administrative Services and Economic Development Director Raymond Baldwin, in Baldwin’s office, a meeting that included the Economic Development Commission.
“At the meeting, business related to the Commission and its role with Tweed Airport expansion was discussed in detail. No public input was invited. No experts in the room. This led to the Chairperson, Stephen Haddon, resigning from the EDC immediately by tendering his resignation on the spot,” Venegas said.
According to meeting minutes filed from the one-hour May 10 meeting, Haddon “spoke at length,” expressing concerns regarding any agreement the town was entering into with the airport before “certain facts” were known. Carfora explained that there was only a tentative agreement in principle about the airport expansion and that “no details had been worked out and that no formal contract had been executed by the parties.” Haddon tendered his written resignation, citing that he could not “support the mayor’s position.”
Venegas said that she has since requested more transparency and accountability by the EDC, recommending a public forum for Tweed Airport expansion and its effects on all aspects of life in East Haven. At a public meeting on May 24 during public comment, Venegas requested that the EDC establish a subcommittee on the issue.
“I sent a follow-up email to the commission and an FOI request was done and waiting to be answered by Town Attorney Michael Luzzi,” said Venegas.
She said her concern is that Mayor Carfora and Baldwin want to dominate the decision-making process relating to the airport, by excluding other town officials and the public.
The mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Tweed Airport Executive Director Sean Scanlon responded to questions raised in the June petition from 10,000 Hawks.
Are the 1,000 promised jobs long-term, local jobs with benefits for New Haven and East Haven residents?
It’s a mix of short-term (but well-paying), union construction jobs and long-term jobs here at the airport. We’ve made hiring locally and building a workforce that reflects the makeup of our community a priority. We are still a few weeks away from major hiring, but we have already developed relationships with local workforce partners like New Haven Works and the Workforce Alliance that will help ensure we are utilizing local employment pipelines in addition to posting openings on our website.
What are the details of promised noise reduction measures?
In addition to abiding by the local noise ordinances, Avports will implement requirements from an updated noise study within five years of FAA approval and will invest up to $1.75 million in additional noise mitigation programs for those not currently eligible once we complete phase six of the current noise mitigation program.
Are Amazon and other freight carriers coming in?
The focus of our project is commercial expansion, and we do not have any plans for freight at this time.
What are the promised traffic calming measures?
We’ve recently hired a nationally recognized firm to study traffic patterns in the area, and we look forward to announcing ways the neighbors can participate and weigh in on that important topic very soon.
What is Tweed’s coastal resiliency plan to minimize flooding and preserve public lands going forward?
Similar to the traffic study, we are finalizing a contract with a consulting firm that has been selected to conduct an environmental assessment of the project. This will look at issues such as resiliency, noise, wildlife, and the like, and there will be several opportunities for public engagement we plan to announce soon.
Is there any local control that remains?
Absolutely—the city will still own the airport, my position and the Airport Authority will still exist and continue to be guided by a board comprised of members appointed by the mayors of East Haven and New Haven, and nothing will change in terms of the value we place on listening to our neighbors and making sure their voices are heard.