EAST HAVEN – Candidates joined residents in protesting the planned expansion of Tweed New Haven Airport on Sunday, and called for more public engagement with the issue.
“Most people are here are because we already know,” mayoral candidate Anthony Camposano shouted to a gathering of protestors from the East Haven Town Green pavilion. “We need to get the word out.”
Camposano, an unaffiliated candidate running solely to bring attention to the expansion, and Stacy Gravino, a Republican town clerk candidate who served in the position for more than 10 years before losing in 2021, joined the protesters for their annual “Keep Tweed Small.”
If approved by the FAA, Tweed plans to build a new terminal, surface parking and a parking garage on the East Haven side of the airport and extend the runway to accommodate additional flights.
Camposano told attendees that many residents do not truly understand the impact that the expansion will have on their quality of life, including increased traffic, air pollution, and noise pollution with little economic benefit for the town. Before attending local meetings, he said, he didn’t either.
Camposano said that when he bought his home, he assumed the leaders in East Haven would never allow an expansion into town – especially because the two towns signed a 2009 agreement limiting the length of the runway. But in 2019, former New Haven Mayor Toni Harp terminated the agreement, paving the way for an expansion.
“New Haven pulled out of the agreement and said, ‘Fuck East Haven. We’re taking this little terminal, we’re getting rid of all the parking on our side. Let’s put it in East Haven,’” he said.
While a federal environmental assessment in March anticipated little significant impact to the environment or nearby residents, protestors, legislators, town officials and environmental groups like Save the Sound have called the study “flawed.” They maintain that the study was based off of false assumptions and understates impacts on air quality, traffic and wildlife.
The assessment is currently under review by the Federal Aviation Administration, which will then decide to approve the expansion, deny it, or require a more detailed study of its impacts. But Camposano told attendees that the town cannot wait for the FAA decision to take action.
“Even if the EA comes back and they say, ‘Well, we have a couple of suggestions that you need to do first, but we’re going to approve it,’ East Haven can still stop it,’” he said. “And it needs to start now. We can’t wait.”
By rallying more residents and asking officials to make changes such as adjusting land use laws, Camposano said, the town can stop the expansion under the right leadership.
Gravino nodded along, adding that she and Camposano will continue to fight the expansion with resident support, also warning of potential impacts to residents and the future of the town.
“The only thing we’re going to get is noise pollution, air pollution, environmental pollution. We’re going to lose species of grasses and birds and any wildlife that we have – we’re going to lose it because they’re going to pollute our wetlands,” Gravino said. “We have to think of the future of our town, and it is our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren.”
Jean Edwards-Chieppo, a vocal opponent of the expansion and organizer of the event, stood beside the candidates on the pavilion. She clarified that the Sunday meeting was not meant to be political, but a way to continue the conversation.
“We cannot let them say we’re stopping,” Edwards-Chieppo said of expansion proponents. “This is too important.”
Edwards-Chieppo told CT Examiner that she invited the other two mayoral candidates – Democratic incumbent Joseph Carfora and Republican challenger Samatha Parlato – but they did not attend. Both have maintained that they oppose the expansion as proposed, but Edwards-Chieppo said Carfora did not respond to her invitations and Parlato was out of town.