Port pursues Congressional financial aid for ongoing Capital Programs

Port pursues Congressional financial aid for ongoing Capital Programs
Rick Cotton at JFK press conference seeking Congress financial aid

Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton took to the road on Wednesday May 20 visiting both JFK and Newark Airports taking the opportunity to highlight the economic importance of these airports and seeking $3 billion from Congress in relief funds to offset high losses created by the Coronavirus. Speaking at Terminal 5 with the JFK air traffic control tower and the TWA hotel as a backdrop, Cotton stated,“ I’m here in connection with the announcement of our ask to Washington for federal aid. I am delighted that more than 20 partners of the NYNJ congressional delegation are supporting our request, ” he said.

Cotton was referring to the letter to House and Senate Congressional leaders written by other members of Congress supporting financial assistance to keep the Port’s capital program alive. Said Cotton, “The point of our request is to continue providing New York and New Jersey with 21st century facilities, facilities which they deserve. “ He said that right now Congress is debating aid to state and local governments, counties and municipalities and that the Port Authority is a multi-state agency and deserves to be treated as such and be eligible for similar funding.

“We’ve had a $3 billion hole blown into our revenue sources. That means at risk is $20 billion in capital spending , capital projects such as JFK redevelopment, Newark and LGA Airtrains, bus terminal, all that will contribute to a strong economic recovery in the wake of this Coronavirus crisis.” As formulated, the

Capital Plan would drive $20 billion of capital to critical infrastructure projects during the next five years alone, generate more than 100,000 local jobs, and would rely on a set of public-private partnerships and on commitments of more than $10 billion in private capital to drive economic activity.

Cotton said he was delighted that NYNJ delegation’s letter supported the Port’s request that was sent to members of Congress weeks ago but has not been acted upon. Saying that the bigger picture is that volumes at airports and facilities have fallen at astonishing rates due to corona virus crisis. “Our airport volume is down almost 97% over a year ago, and almost as much with vehicle and truck transportation in the two states. “This is truly astonishing and unprecedented. “

He went further to explain that normally the Port is fully self sustaining and self funded with Port not receiving federal nor state dollars. Port’s revenue is based on business arrangements with the commercial partners, travel volumes fees, bridge and tunnel fares and tolls.

However, during this crisis, Port needs aid from the federal government in the same way as local governments and agencies. “We are a local government agency and face the same crisis as others local governments. While we understand that resources are needed across the board, a healthy, fully functional Port Authority is critical to our region’s recovery from this crisis. Assistance will ensure that the Port Authority can continue operating throughout this crisis and serve more than 20 million people who live and work in the region as our nation recovers from the pandemic. The Port Authority also employs 8,000 workers directly, and its facilities support 1 million regional jobs. These jobs are essential to the economic recovery of our region. “

Asked how such funding would trickle down to the local stakeholders at JFK Cotton said, “We want to rebuild this airport. It comes down that we can be able to proceed with construction spending that is an enormous driver of economic activity. Tens of thousands of jobs are stimulated at the airports and other infrastructure facilities. “We have made an enormous effort to make sure there are not just construction jobs that benefit local community and businesses but enormous materials of services are required, skilled operations off airport but supporting the projects. The longer term benefits the region by having 21st facilities which are part of our recovery bringing travelers and business back spending money and furthering the economic activity on abroad basis,” Cotton explained.

Recently Governor Cuomo created the NY Forward Advisory Board. A few of the selected business members are investors in the JFK redevelopment projects. Asked whether these business leaders could positively add to the ask by the Port Authority, Cotton responded, “ We hope everyone will join hands and help advocate for the aid we are asking for. The letter from the bi-state bipartisan coalition delegation is so important. This is a broad partnership involving entities that will provide jobs, a coalition that includes community representatives that see the training we want to do, the capacity building, and working hard with small business around the airport to insure ability to bid on jobs, provide concessions and training, provide jobs for skilled trades, and aid to local educational institutions that will provide both education and opportunity. This is a community wide and regional wide effort. We are looking for everyone to work with us and congress in advocating our ability to continue these initiatives. Our ask is straightforward. We are grateful to members of the delegation and are working hand in glove with them, advocating for aid which is so critical.”

JFK Airport General Manager Charles Everett, Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton.
Photo by Jeff Yapalater