In an emotional debate, East Haven Mayor Joseph Carfora argued in vain for New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker and neighboring town leaders to table their support for what he described as a “lopsided” environmental study of the proposed Tweed New Haven Airport expansion.
After delaying its vote for a month, on Wednesday the South Central Regional Council of Governments debated a resolution to support FAA’s environmental study, which projected minimal impacts from the proposed expansion.
“The FAA decides if they’re gonna do a [a more detailed] EIS or if they’re gonna live with this,” Carofa said. “I don’t see what the issue [is] here and why this is on the agenda again because – pardon my French – it’s bullshit.”
Elicker interjected: “Point of order – if we could all use appropriate language.”
Carfora replied that he would use more appropriate language, but that East Haven was “once again” on the short end of the stick.
In addition to supporting the FAA study, the motion applauded the expansion for the anticipated “creation of more than 1,100 jobs, the generation of significant economic activity in East Haven and New Haven, the new opportunities and destinations made possible through this runway and terminal expansion.”
Carfora and Elicker both supported the Tweed expansion when it was announced in May 2021, but Carfora has since pulled his support, based on what he says is an unequal split of the economic benefits and environmental consequences between East Haven and New Haven.
“I was voted into office to protect my town, and that’s why I’m here speaking like this. Okay?” Carfora said. “So, you worry about your city and I’ll worry about my town.”
Earlier this month at a public hearing Carfora called for a more detailed environmental impact statement.
On Wednesday, Carfora addressed what he said were deficiencies in the study, questioned the need for the resolution, and asked fellow council members to table the vote.
He asked the members of the council – leaders of Bethany, Branford, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, New Haven, North Haven, Wallingford and Woodbridge – whether they had even read the study or its findings.
Only Elicker and Guilford First Selectman Matthew Hoey, also a member of the Tweed Airport Authority, said they had.
“I want to ask you all – how can you vote if you don’t know what’s in this?” Carfora asked, holding up a copy of the environmental assessment.
Carfora encouraged SCROG members to read the document and offered to bring in experts – which he said he spent $250,000 in taxpayer money to hire – to review it with them.
He also reminded members of the council that East Haven is an environmental justice community.
“This is lopsided, and I think it would be a travesty if all of you voted [for] this,” Carfora said. “It’s a travesty. It’s an environmental injustice for my town.”
He then moved to table the vote on the resolution.
Elicker countered and urged the council to reject Carfora’s motion.
“I don’t think that we should be voting to table this item,” Elicker said. “I understand the passion. I think that some of the comments just made are not representative of the interest of all of us to be doing the right thing here – to be following our hearts in what we believe is the appropriate thing to do to support our communities.”
The motion to table failed in a tie-breaking vote by the chair, Bethany First Selectman Paula Cofrancesco, who said no one would be happy with her vote either way.
“As municipal leaders, we all deal with these situations. Not everybody’s going to be happy, but the process has to play out,” Cofrancesco said. “…the FAA is going to make the final call whether we like it or not.”
Carfora quickly left the meeting following the vote.
After his exit, members voted on an amendment to the resolution that stated that SCROG would support a more detailed environmental impact statement if FAA deemed it necessary.
Elicker was the only member to oppose the EIS amendment, questioning why it was necessary.
“I just don’t understand the purpose of the proposed amendment,” Elicker explained. “It just feels like we’re trying to be nice here when the reality is this decision is up to the FAA, and we should defer to the FAA as to whether the EIS is necessary or not.”
The amended motion passed with no members opposed.