By Jonathan Sperling
The modernization efforts at Queens’ two international airports — the gateways to New York City for millions of visitors — are taking off, despite metropolitan-area type “cynicism.”
That is, according to Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Executive Director Rick Cotton, who addressed audience members at a Crain’s summit on infrastructure Wednesday. The summit, titled “From Third Rate to First Class—Transforming New York's Airports” saw Cotton, industry leaders and Queens Rep. Gregory Meeks share insight into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $13 billion JFK Airport modernization plan, as well as the $8 billion plan to rebuild LaGuardia Airport.
Among the early topics of discussion was the recent ribbon-cutting of JFK’s TWA Hotel, which — for $250 per night — gives guests the opportunity to enjoy a rooftop pool, eight restaurants and six bars.
“My message is we are not just talking. The rebuild is underway and we are committed to move from the back of the pack to world class,” Cotton said after rattling off several improvements at JFK and LaGuardia, including the $13 billion JFK redevelopment plan launched in October and the new concourse opened at LaGuardia in November.
Cotton also reaffirmed his support for a LaGuardia AirTrain that would seamlessly connect Long Island Rail Road commuters to the airport, not unlike how JFK flyers are connected to the Jamaica LIRR. He told the audience that as many as 10 million passengers would utilize a LaGuardia AirTrain each year, and added that the Port Authority would work with the MTA to add LIRR and No. 7 train service to Willets Point in order to make the public transportation route more appealing.
LaGuardia is currently the only major East Coast airport without rail service.
After Cotton’s address, industry experts — among them Thor Equities COO Melissa Gliatta, Airline/Aircraft Projects Inc. President Craig Jenks, MCR Development CEO Tyler Morse and Thales CEO Alan Pellegrini — spoke alongside Meeks during a panel discussion.
Cotton said that JFK’s roadway network was a “spaghetti mess.”
Meeks, whose district includes South Ozone Park, Queens Village, Hollis and Far Rockaway, noted that community input is a driving force behind successful improvement efforts in and around JFK.
“What you want to do is to make sure that the airport is not something that is separate and apart from the community, but is an integral part of the community.”
“What Tyler [Morse] is doing at TWA Hotel, the community was considered in every aspect of it. So it’s not just for the travelers who are maybe living in the rooms,” Meeks added.