|Airports For Sale?
Mayor Requests Proposals
For New Operators
By JUSTINA WILLIAMS
After more than forty years of governance over Queens
LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airports, the New York and New Jersey Port Authority will be
ousted if Mayor Rudy Giuliani has his way and the right private proposal is sent to New
the Port Authority has leased both LaGuardia (above) and John F. Kennedy airports for the
majority of their existence, both may be privatized after the Port Authoritys lease
expires in 2015.
The Port Authoritys current lease on
the two airports doesnt expire until 2015, but at the end of last week Giuliani and
the New York City Economic Development Corporation issued a Request For Proposals (RFP)
from private companies describing how they would manage the airports. The proposals are
not due until January 14, 2000 but by October 18 just four days after the RFP went
out the city already had nine international and national companies expressing
The Mayor has called for change in the face of what he says
is mismanagement and funds inappropriately allocated from the Queens airports to New
Jersey by the quasi-governmental Port Authority. He also maintains that the Port Authority
is responsible for a recent study labeling the two airports as among the worst in the
"[New York airports] are among the busiest airports in
the world, and they should be among the best. Instead theyve suffered from decades
of neglect. Were losing passengers, were losing business and were losing
prestige because of Port Authoritys management," said the mayor.
The Mayor also quoted a nationwide study of the
countrys 36 airports which ranked JFK 35th, La Guardia 31st.
"Further, for years the Port Authority has been
diverting to its New Jersey operations millions of dollars in revenue generated by JFK and
La Guardia. In 1998 alone approximately $150 million went to subsidize the New Jersey PATH
train instead of funding improvements for our airports," he concluded.
"As a result of the Mayors announcement today
the Port Authority should see the writing on the wall and negotiate an early termination
of its lease," added John Dyson, chairman of the Mayors Council of economic
In response to the Mayors request, the Port Authority
issued a short statement delineating two current ongoing projects, which provide over 10
billion dollars in investments for upgrades to the two airports. The Port Authority has
also said that they are prepared to renegotiate the lease to provide more rental income to
John F. Kennedy airport, located in southeast Queens on
Jamaica Bay, was opened on the former site of a marshy golf course back in 1947, and from
its inception the Port Authority held the airports city lease. Planned for 1,000
acres the airport has since quadrupled in size, and currently encompasses over 4,930
acres. It employs over 37,000 people and contributes 20.4 billion in economic activity to
the area, generating around 207, 700 jobs. As of June 1997 the Port Authoritys
capital investment was approximatly 2.4 billion.
La Guardia airport, located in Northwest Queens bordering
on Flushing and Bowery Bay, was opened in 1939 on the former site of the gala amusement
park. In 1947, the airport was leased to the Port Authority. Currently ranging over 680
acres, the airport employs around 9,000 people directly, and contributes 5.7 million in
economic activity to the area, generating 63,000 jobs. As of June 1997 capital investment
was around 791 million.
The quasi-governmental ag-ency called the Port Authority
was the outgrowth of New Jersey and New York sibling-like squabbles over services and
usage, which date back over a century. In 1834, two police officers punctuated their
argument by engaging in an informal duel while standing in the entity of contention
the Hudson River.
The contending states eventually turned to England for a
model of management. England possessed the first public authority in the world. In 1921
the two American states created the Port of New York Authority (later to be re-named Port
of New York and New Jersey). It was the first inter-state agency in the United States, and
was created under a clause of the constitution which permits compacts between states.
It oversees a region of roughly 1,400 square feet centered
around the Statue of Liberty, and as a public authority is funded independently by funds
from projects it oversees rather than tax moneys. It is meant to function as an incubator
for the regions economy and is the primary governing agency over a host of other
entities, among them the PATH train and Port Authority bus terminal.
Port Authority funds are pooled as a common source, used to
back bonds, and merited out accordingly to various projects, rather than having funding
from an individual project remaining solely within that project. The mayor s office
is angered that the PATH train has been operating as a deficit, and feels it is unfairly
draining that resource pool. PATH fare has remained $1 since 1986.
The Voice Of The People
According to a poll conducted by the Quinnipiac Institute,
Guilianis view is held by the minority of New Yorkers. Seventy-six percent said that
bridge and tunnel tolls should remain the same, and 69 percent felt the PATH fare should
remain $1. Additionally, John F. Kennedy airport has traditionally utilized the lions
share of Port Authority funds, and is currently in the midst of a 9 billion upgrade. New
terminals and roads are being built across the airport, and construction has begun on a
high speed rail link. Also, La Guardia will be benefiting from a 1 billion dollar
makeover, with additional hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements.
Additionally the Quinnipiac survey also said that while 38
percent of New Jersey voters felt the PA favored New York, 25 percent of New Yorkers
voters felt it favored New Jersey, and that a similar amount, 43 percent of New Jersey, 40
percent of New York, felt the bi-state agency treats both fairly.
Currently several airports both nationally and
internationally have independent operators including Indianapolis airport, Englands
Heathrow, and Gatwick, and New York state is making plans to privatize upstate Stewart and
While Governor Pataki has encouraged the Port Authority to
cooperate, a spokesperson added that "itll be down the road before we know that
this proposal makes the best sense for the people of New York, and we look forward to
getting a complete and fair assessment of the proposal."
Meanwhile, many local residents are ambivalent. President
of the United Civic Association, Rose Marie Poveromo, long a vocal opponent of airplane
noise and pollution, felt any positive changes would be negligible, as her requests
for airplane technical changes, are under the authority of the FAA, as is plane path
While noting that "the mayor has been rightfully
unhappy" with the airports, Dr. Steven Dobrow of Woodside was also speculative, and
wondered at the rush as 2015 is "not something just around the corner." Adding
"theres a lot of questions here I hope the city council will look into
it," he mused, "The main reason is because the mayor likes to run things and
"privatization" is a good election buzzword."
Still Suing Over The
By JUSTINA WILLIAMS
A group of angry Queens residents, members of Southeast
Queens Concerned Neighbors, began their latest step in an attempt to derail the Port
Authoritys plans to build a rail link to John F. Kennedy airport when they filed a
lawsuit to stop federal funding of the project on October 19.
Citing miss-use of funds, members reported a number of grievances with the proposed 1.5
million dollar AirTrain. With a connection at Jamaica Center, the elevated train will run
along the Van Wyck Expressways median until its destination at the airport.
Residents object to the project due to safety, traffic, and financial concerns.
"Right now if one car stalls out on the Van Wyck traffic backs up into the exits,
than the streets of the neighborhood," said resident Freida Latimer. Noting the extra
congestion which would be created by construction she continued, "During those 3-5
years the Van Wyck will become a parking lot. What will happen if traffic is backed up
when we need medical service?" She added that construction could also damage south
Queens infrastructure should one of over 4,000 planned on pile drivings hit an old
and long buried water main.
Councilwoman Julia Harrison, the only councilperson to vote against the project, has
also entered the lawsuit as a friend of the court.
Harrison noted not only the traffic hazard, but added that the project was financially
irresponsible. Noting that the train will not provide a one seat ride from Manhattan, as
had been initially purported, she said its inconvenience will result in low usership, such
that the constructions high cost will make each passengers ride cost the equivalent
"Thats more than a taxi," said Harrison.