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Residents near Republic Airport voice concerns over expansion plans

The sign for Republic Airport in East Farmingdale

The sign for Republic Airport in East Farmingdale is shown Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Governor Cuomo has plans to develop the airport by creating a tax-free zone for businesses and adding commercial air service. Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely

Residents from Huntington, Farmingdale, Plainview, Bethpage and other areas packed a Melville fire station Thursday night to voice their objections to expanding Republic Airport and making the state-owned facility private.

More than 100 elected officials, the Republic Airport Commission -- a volunteer board charged with advising the state on airport administration -- at least a dozen civic group leaders, school board members and regular residents vowed to fight the plan at the meeting, which was hosted by the Civic Association of Sweet Hollow.

Critics say the plan would bring more noise to those living under the airport's flight paths and more traffic to Route 110. Earlier this year, the state Department of Transportation, which owns the airport, put out a request for proposals to have it privately managed. The proposals are due back Monday.

"My job is to be a conduit," said Vanessa Pino Lockel, the regional leader for Suffolk County for the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program for the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery. "To take the message back up to the governor's office, to take copious notes and be a great listener."

What she heard was frustration from the people in the room who said they had not been given a head's-up about the governor's plan before the request for proposal went out.

In his January State of the State Address, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Republic and upstate Stewart Airport could absorb some of the traffic now flying into Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. In a February visit to Farmingdale State College, he said he envisions Republic as a destination for direct commercial flights to Long Island.

Frank Nocerino, chairman of the Republic Airport Commission, said the facility should remain a general aviation airport and not accept commercial aircraft.

"I can tell you from my lips to you," he said, "this airport commission for the first time in 20 years will take on the governor . . . Vanessa, please take it back to the governor no one is going to come into our community and change the quality of life that we live, we play and we work every day. You're not running this community from Albany."

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