UPDATE: The AP is reporting that a deal has been reached in Congress to end the FAA shutdown, with the Senate expected to accept a House-passed bill as early as Friday.
Local Democratic leaders held a press conference outside MacArthur Airport Thursday demanding that Congress return to Washington to reauthorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The FAA has been in a partial shutdown since July 23, putting 4,000 of its workers on furlough, with another estimated 87,000 jobs jeopardized because of stop-work orders on aviation-related capital infrastructure projects.
"They're now injecting ideology into our runways," Rep. Steve Israel, D-Dix Hills, said of Republicans in the House. "They've allowed Congress to return home without reauthorizing critical FAA airport safety."
Several projects at MacArthur, including a new design of the airport’s fire rescue service and the installation of an electronic fence around the in nearby Bayport have been put on hold, according to airport officials.
"We've been working very hard to try to move the airport forward," Islip Town Supervisor Phil Nolan said. "We've been here with a lot of good lately...now we're caught in the middle of an ideological battle."
One of the sticking points between the two parties is that Republicans want to cut $16 million in air service subsidies, arguing that if Democrats won't agree to those cuts, dealing with the country's larger financial mess will be next to impossible.
Surrounded by dozen of workers affected by the shutdown in MacArthur's short-term parking lot Thursday afternoon, Rep. Tim Bishop, D-Southampton, said it made no sense to squabble over $16 million when the government will be giving up $1.2 billion in revenue in uncollected airline ticket taxes if FAA funding isn't restored until Congress returns from recess next month.
"Ask yourself if there's a single company in this country that would solve a $16 million problem at the expense to their corporation of $1.2 billion," said Bishop, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "No, the answer is absolutely not."
Jim Anzaldi, 32, an FAA engineer who works at the Air Route Traffic Control Center just outside MacArthur, has been on a furlough for nearly two weeks now.
"I have two children under the age of five, and my wife is nine months pregnant, so this is probably the last thing I needed right now," said Anzaldi, of Mt. Sinai.
Anzaldi, who's still been working without pay, has issued stop-orders on several airport projects. He called the situation "disheartening."
"It's just tragic," he said, adding of his young and growing family, "It's tough, and we just try to get by every day."