Op-Ed: Working together to shape Queens’ economy for years to come



The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on every aspect of our lives, and has been felt by businesses both large and small, in every sector of our economy.

Queens is tough and resilient and we will get through this, but what we do today will shape our economy for years to come. Right now, we need government and the private sector to work together and support the investments that will bring Queens back better and stronger.

One reason Queens is well-positioned to recover is because we are the aviation borough. LaGuardia Airport and JFK International Airport are engines of economic activity that employ 49,000 people and contribute more than $64 billion in economic activity to the metropolitan region. The Queens Chamber’s 1,150 member businesses rely on our transportation infrastructure. As we begin to reimagine our economy and onshore manufacturing jobs, Queens has everything in place to serve as a manufacturing and distribution hub.

This will require investing in the infrastructure of tomorrow, particularly at our airports. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency operating JFK and LaGuardia, is projected to see a $3 billion reduction in revenue over the next 24 months due to the precipitous decline in travel. This means less money for the Port Authority’s capital program to make investments in the necessary infrastructure improvements to support the economic recovery of our borough and region.

These infrastructure projects, as currently planned, include public-private partnerships that would leverage more than $10 billion in committed private capital, while creating about 100,000 direct and indirect jobs. When you combine both public and private investment, the Port Authority capital plan would drive $20 billion of capital spending in the next five years. This includes plans to transform JFK Airport into a modern, international gateway; the ongoing project to build a new LaGuardia Airport; and AirTrain Laguardia, which would create a reliable rail link between Midtown Manhattan and LaGuardia Airport.

These projects create good paying jobs right here and right away. The transformation of LaGuardia Airport is creating 7,000 direct construction jobs and another 7,000 indirect jobs. The project at JFK will create more than 30,000 jobs, half of which will be direct construction jobs. These historic investments in new, world-class airports are investments in Queens and our future.

Revenue is the life blood of the Port Authority, which differs from other government entities in that it takes no taxpayer dollars and is completely self-sustaining. As Congress considers aiding states and other local governmental units, it must also assist financially independent, multi-state entities like the Port Authority.

That’s why the Queens Chamber joined more than 50 business, labor, and civic stakeholders, and more than two dozen bipartisan members of the New York and New Jersey Congressional delegations in supporting the Port Authority’s call for federal assistance to avoid cuts to it’s capital program.

Putting our economy back on track depends on these job-creating capital projects moving forward promptly. This is not the time for delay – or worse canceling capital projects. Congress must approve federal funding for the Port Authority equal to its loss of revenue so that we can create jobs and ensure economic growth well into the future – and maintain Queens as the home of opportunity.

Tom Grech is president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

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