Boro lost airport jobs after 9/11 attacks: Survey

By Philip Newman

Queens lost an estimated 12,500 jobs from the World Trade Center attack in an indirect but powerful economic blow that left its two great air terminals in a slump from which they have yet to recover, a newly issued survey says.

Queens residents filed 24 percent of all unemployment claims considered by the New York State Labor Department to be directly related to the attacks.

“It’s really very tough for many businesses,” said Marie Nahikian, executive director of the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation, which has released its latest business outlook.

“It is tough also when you consider that no money to ease these conditions has been forthcoming from the federal government,” she said. “Of course, no one argues that businesses of Lower Manhattan were not prime casualties of 9/11 and come first, but the impact on Queens was profound.”

Queens businesses hurt by Sept. 11 are not eligible because of the requirements specified by the state of New York for federal aid.

“Many of our hard-hit businesses have been hanging on, but it’s quite possible that we will see a lot of them simply disappear,” Nahikian said.

The Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation’s Queens Global Outlook said the number of passengers at LaGuardia airport and John F. Kennedy International airport totaled 51,051,736 in the year 2001, down 12 percent from 2000.

Before the terrorist attack, the air transportation industry directly employed 41,500 workers in Queens, accounting for 8.6 percent of the county’s total work force. Since Sept. 11, about 8,500 air transport jobs have been lost and another 4,000 jobs in industries directly or indirectly connected to the airports have disappeared, according to the survey.

“Limousine and car services, parking, food services, hotels, air cargo and freighter forwarding have been hard hit,” said Nahikian, as well as vendors in airport terminals

“There is the case of a Muslim woman in Jamaica who owned a laundry,” Nahikian said. “She lost the laundry because her business dried up after Sept. 11. Then there was a woman who had sold Halal (prepared according to Muslim religious requirements) chicken near the World Trade Center for 17 years. Her business was wiped out.”

Nahikian also mentioned a Queens dentist, many of whose patients were employees of the bond trading company Cantor Fitzgerald, which suffered a devastating loss of life among its work force in the World Trade Center attack.

The survey said that for every 1,000 air transportation jobs lost, an estimated 470 jobs disappeared in travel agencies, restaurants, computer and data-processing, trade, freight and other industries.

“Recent employment data for Queens are not yet available,” the survey said. “However, New York City experienced a 3.6 percent job decline between December 2000 and April 2002. Approximately a third of this loss is due to the recession that started before Sept. 11. A 3.6 percent decline in Queens’ job base would translate into approximately 19,000 lost jobs.”

A total of 12,500 lost jobs in the borough were attributable to the attack on the World Trade Center, the survey said.

Nationally, the drop in air travel last year was 7.2 percent. At Kennedy, travel declined by 10.6 percent and plummeted 13.8 percent at LaGuardia, the nation’s most congested airport not long before the attack.

Some predictions are not overly optimistic.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey forecasts a 12 percent drop in air travel for 2002 at JFK and 9 percent at LaGuardia. The Federal Aviation Administration predicts a 12 percent decline nationwide this year.

But the FAA suggests growth will return in 2003 and get back closer to pre-911 levels in 2004.

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