Airport Delays of a Different Kind

We are all used to airport delays, but five months?

That’s how long it’s been since The Tablet reported on a Queens priests’ quest to include a chapel at a new LaGuardia Airport terminal.

The only thing that appears to be standing in the way, is a walkthrough coordinated by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office. So far, that has been canceled twice.

While Father Chris Piasta, pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Jamaica, Queens — and chaplain for both LaGuardia and JFK airports — is optimistic more religious space will eventually open somewhere in the vicinity of Terminals B or C, the often-delayed tour by the governor’s office and other stakeholders have us questioning Father Piasta’s optimism.

It’s now mid-March, and at the very least, those in charge should be able to put a date on the calendar for the tour to finally be held.

It should be noted that a spokesman for Gov. Hochul’s office has told The Tablet: “I can confirm for you that we are in the process of scheduling the meeting, and are working on the logistics to make it a reality.”

As the world begins to open up after two years of reduced air travel due to COVID-19, and as we see  a soaring increase in refugees from war-torn nations such as Afghanistan and Ukraine arriving here, the need for a chapel is becoming a very important component in any airport, particularly here.

It is time for Gov. Hochul, as well as the head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs LaGuardia Airport; LaGuardia Gateway Partners, which is leading the Terminal B project; and Delta Airlines, which is reconstructing Terminals C and D, to get together and come up with a new plan to allot space for a multi-religious prayer room where services can be conducted.

A space that, hopefully, can be larger than a 10-by-20 foot area within the airport renovation project’s 1.3 million square feet of space.

Father Piasta and fellow chaplain Rabbi Ari Korenblit have been advocating for the “interreligious” chapel for more than three years, with little success, since LaGuardia Gateway Partners has only set aside the aforementioned small room called a “meditation space,” which by the way is closed at this time due to pandemic restrictions.

And when LaGuardia Gateway Partners set aside that meditation space, they told the chaplains that no religious services could be held there, that it could be used only for silent prayers and reflections.

Let’s see if the proposed “Central Hall operating agreement” can unite all the religious sects seeking an interfaith space within LaGuardia.

The faithful should support Father Piasta’s mission and contact the governor’s office to make their voices heard.