Tweed, New Haven officials struggle to build trust and engage neighbors on airport expansion

NEW HAVEN — As Tweed New Haven Regional Airport officials prepare for the Board of Alders to consider a 43-year agreement that’s crucial to Tweed’s $100 million expansion plan, they are trying to reach out to neighbors.

But years of mistrust from wary neighbors, fed by a perception that Tweed and city officials don’t take community input seriously — and don’t always tell neighbors all the details — continue to churn.

Tweed’s expansion plan includes an initial $70 million to extend the existing 5,600-foot runway to 5,735 feet and build a new, carbon-neutral, 74,000-square-foot terminal on the East Haven side. The shift would include a new entrance off Proto Drive in East Haven, with an approach along Hemingway Avenue.

Contract operator Avports LLC, a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs, would step up as a financial partner of the airport as well as continue to manage it for 43 years under the proposed agreement. It also would foot the bill for Tweed’s operations, allowing Tweed to do away with its $1.8 million in annual city and state subsidies.

The announcement of the deal in May was accompanied by an announcement that a new start-up airline, Avelo, will begin serving Tweed — and make the airport its first East Coast base — later this year. Avelo also would kick in $1.2 million to upgrade the existing terminal before the new one can be built.

Foremost on most speakers’ minds at the most recent forum, for which more than 120 people turned out, were concerns about how the expansion might affect nearby neighborhoods, both directly adjacent in East Haven and New Haven’s Morris Cove and Annex sections, as well as those a little farther afield, such as Fair Haven Heights and Fair Haven.

Tweed New Haven Airport Authority Executive Director Sean Scanlon, addressing neighbors’ past perceptions that Tweed hasn’t always been forthcoming, said that he hears “loud and clear” from residents “from the mayor, from the mayor of East Haven, from the people in the neighborhood, is that we need a strong community benefits package.”

He said he is available to talk to anybody about their concerns.

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