The proposed $6.4 billion Philadelphia International Airport expansion project has its share of detractors, including residents from Tinicum Township, Pennsylvania — who recently filed a lawsuit to halt the project — and the Environmental Protection Agency.
POWER — Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild can be added to the list of entities seeking clarity — and equal job opportunities for the city’s skilled minority workforce.
POWER plans to meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5, at Grace Christian Fellowship Church, 6206 Grays Ferry Avenue, to discuss the finer, financial nuances of the plan. Reverend Cean James will head this meeting, the first such one to take place at the church.
The church also held an informal meeting earlier this year in regard to the project, but Tuesday’s meeting represents the first of four city-wide meetings, which POWER sees as a “campaign to address economic injustice in the city.”
“There are young people sitting in Philadelphia classrooms, and adults sitting in GED programs, whose future will be determined by our ability to establish this kind of agreement,” James said in a prepared statement. “The expansion of PHL provides a unique opportunity for city government to provide leadership to ensure that struggling people from all over the city are able to take advantage of this once in a life time economic development project.”
POWER also held a prayer rally earlier this year at the site of the proposed expansion, and organizational leaders remain committed to the cause.
“POWER congregations serve thousands of Philadelphians who are either unemployed or underemployed,” said Executive Director Bishop Dwayne Royster, who also serves as pastor of Living Water United Church of Christ in Kensington. “In addition to easing airport delays for people traveling through Philadelphia, this economic development project should be used to address long-standing poverty and joblessness in our hardest hit neighborhoods.”
The expansion project — which includes additional international runways and terminals that the Federal Aviation Association says will decrease air congestion — is said to create more than 100,000 temporary, long-term and permanent positions over the next several decades. To make sure that the city and PHL guarantee equality in filling out those positions, POWER crafted a five-step process to ensure minorities are at the table — and at the pay window.
At a ratification meeting last month, POWER called on Mayor Michael Nutter and PHL officials to create training programs to ensure that people have the skills required to do the permanent jobs that will become available; create a first source hiring program that gives “first crack” at the permanent jobs to people who have struggled recently with unemployment, or who live in disadvantaged areas; promote a living wage, health and retirement benefits, and the right to organize, where applicable, for the permanent jobs and create a fully-funded compliance and monitoring system.
Unrelated to POWER, the airport project has seen its share of naysayers and lawsuits — some of which had the potential to derail the project entirely.
Tinicum residents in April held a hearing with a panel of three federal judges who heard their complaints — chief among them that the project would eliminate more than 70 residential dwellings. Media reports suggested the EPA is backing the Tinicum residents in the matter. And US Airways — one of the airport’s biggest customers — is said to be against the project from the start, claiming it will cost too much money and will not alleviate air congestion in the manner the FAA believes it will.
This proposed project comes on the heels of a $117 million expansion currently underway. That expansion includes a new central hub, reconfigured security checkpoints, new baggage claim areas and a new connector for Terminals E and F. This expansion should be completed by fall 2015.