By Bill Parry
The $10 billion redevelopment plan for JFK International Airport is still in its early stages but it took a significant step forward Tuesday when Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a Request for Proposals for preliminary engineering and design on the project.
The chosen firm will follow the blueprint laid out in Cuomo’s “vision plan” to reimagine the airport’s terminals, roadways, AirTrain, parking, cargo facilities and support infrastructure.
“JFK International Airport is an international gateway to New York and a powerful economic engine with the potential to grow even stronger,” Cuomo said. “By enhancing capacity, improving access and creating a unified framework for one of the nation’s largest international airports, the new JFK Airport will be a center of economic activity and a world-class airport of the caliber that New York deserves.”
The RFP is complemented by $1.5 billion in New York State commitments for improvements to the Van Wyck Expressway and Kew Gardens Interchange that will improve access to the airport and reduce congestion.
State Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) lauded the governor’s plan, calling the project “absolutely vital for safety, for tourism, and for the creation of a 21st century air infrastructure for Queens.”
Pheffer Amato noted Cuomo’s press release, which stated “JFK is one of the only major airports in the world that does not offer travelers a one-seat ride from its city center.” With that in mind, Pheffer Amato recommended Cuomo expand his plan to create one.
“This proposal is about keeping JFK world class and making it serve the people of New York,” she said. “Some of the changes are long overdue; some are great bits of forward thinking. All of them are badly needed. My message to Gov. Cuomo, the MTA and the Port Authority is: You can’t have a world-class airport without quick travel to the city center. South Queens has been isolated from the transit grid for too long, and we know that because we can’t get to jobs, family and recreation as fast as the rest of the city. We used to have a 40-minute commute to Midtown. Now it’s twice that.”
Pheffer Amato has been a staunch advocate for the return of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line, a relatively inexpensive reactivation of a right-of-way that carried commuters between South Queens and Manhattan from 1880 to 1960.
“This is one solution, there may be another,” Pheffer Amato said. “But whatever the solution winds up being, Gov. Cuomo is right that we need single-seat rail travel from the airport to the hub of the city. While we’re redeveloping our infrastructure, why not kill two birds with one stone and give the airport’s surrounding community — South Queens — a huge economic boost? That’s what we’re calling for.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr