Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a set of executive orders on Monday that will be included in the city’s lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, giving south Queens residents priority for positions at JFK Airport.
With billions going into the redevelopment of the airport, de Blasio said this would aid recovery in the city from the COVID-19 pandemic and boost community involvement in the economic benefits of having an international airport in their backyard.
Up to 20,000 jobs are being generated by the $10 to $15 billion redevelopment of the airport, much of which has been underway for a number of years. These jobs will be predominantly awarded to local minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs).
“Today I’ll be signing an executive order to extend the JFK lease with the Port Authority, and to do it with a package of actions that will make sure there is economic empowerment, that a lot of the wealth generated in JFK gets redistributed to the surrounding communities and businesses that represent the surrounding communities,” de Blasio said Monday morning. “It wasn’t just about saying, ‘Here’s what we think would be good’; it was about listening to the voices of the community and the leaders of the community who have been fighting for years for the kind of community benefits package that would really make a difference. That includes a lot of that money going into the hands of minority- and women-owned businesses. That includes local hiring for the community. That includes apprenticeship programs, things that actually give people economic opportunity.”
Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks, whose district includes JFK, stood behind the mayor’s plan to require inclusion of local MWBEs while in the same breath advocating for federal support in Washington, D.C., which he says is still the subject of ongoing discussions. A vote on elements of the American Rescue Plan is up for a vote in the House of Representatives this week.
“In New York, support for the Port Authority and its ongoing redevelopment projects, including at JFK Airport, will be key to a more even economic revitalization after the pandemic. Today’s lease extension announcement will allow for deal restructuring which will ensure the long-term sustainability of JFK’s redevelopment and allow us on the federal level to continue our work to address the Port’s $3 billion shortfall with the Biden Administration in the upcoming COVID-19 relief bill, a real threat to job growth in New York.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards talked about the health impacts on the surrounding communities in southeast and northwest Queens due to high airline traffic and low-flying planes over homes, and while these issues remain, he stated that these communities will at least benefit economically.
“I’ve talked about the disparities … We would hear ‘jobs are coming in, jobs are coming in’ but we would say, ‘Who are the jobs for? Are they for the local residents?’” Richards said. “[There are communities in Queens] who get the noise, who get the pollution of the airport, but we also need to ensure that they are the number one priority when these jobs are coming in.”
Officially, the mayor’s emergency executive order will extend the PANYNJ’s lease from 2050 to 2060 with these provisions built-in. On the specifics of these, 30 percent of workers must be people of color while ensuring at least 30 percent of the contractors are MWBEs. The executive order establishes new apprenticeship and scholarship programs for members of the surrounding communities, and also requires the new building meets strict environmental standards.
This story originally appeared on amny.com.