Queens borough president urges JetBlue to remain in Long Island City

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards calls on JetBlue to remain in Queens when its Long Island City lease ends in 2023. (QNS/File)

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards is calling on New York’s “hometown airline” to stay grounded in Long Island City.

In a letter to JetBlue CEO Robin Harris, Richards urged the company to commit to keeping its corporate headquarters in Queensboro Plaza instead of moving its operation to Florida.

“When JetBlue initially chose Kew Gardens and later Long Island City as the site of its corporate headquarters, it marked the beginning of what has become a deep and mutually beneficial partnership between your airline and the borough of Queens,” Richards wrote. “Let’s continue that partnership. I understand the COVID-19 pandemic has placed significant strains on JetBlue and other airlines, and that emerging from the nadir will require difficult choices. But I know that it would be a long-term mistake for JetBlue to abandon its relationships and roots in Queens, thereby losing out on everything our borough and its residents can offer.”

Senator Charles Schumer recently called Harris and asked him to stay after the lease on the Long Island City headquarters runs out in 2023. The potential move could affect 1,300 corporate workers and another 7,000 JetBlue employees who report to work at various New York locations including LaGuardia and JFK airports.

“The purpose of my call to Mr. Hayes was simply to remind him that JetBlue’s roots and its future is here in New York,” Schumer said. “With the critical pandemic relief dollars we just delivered on to help save airlines like JetBlue, and the thousands and thousands of New Yorkers they already employ, the airline should actually clear the runway to grow here, not recede. Bottom line, I am confident JetBlue will remain New York’s hometown airline for a long time to come.”

Schumer made the call after reading details of a corporate memo to employees announcing that JetBlue was considering options for when its lease runs out at its Queensboro Plaza headquarters.

“We are exploring a number of paths, including staying in Long Island City, moving to another space in New York City, and/or shifting a to-be-determined number of [headquarter] roles to existing support centers,” the memo said. “We now have more leasing options as greater vacancy rates have changed the economics; the role of the office and our space requirements will evolve in a hybrid work environment; and our own financial condition has been impacted by COVID-19.”

A JetBlue spokesperson called New York the company’s home for more than 20 years.

“We have terrific options in both New York and Florida, and are exploring a number of paths, including staying in Long Island City, moving to another space in New York City, and/or shifting a to-be-determined number of New York-based roles to our existing campuses in Florida,” the spokesperson said, adding that the company expects to have a plan in place later this year.

“As borough president, I am committed to building an environment in Queens that allows businesses — large and small — to adapt, grow and thrive,” Richards wrote in conclusion. “I ask that you meet with me soon to discuss what can be done to keep JetBlue’s headquarters in Long Island City, and I hope that one day soon we’ll be able to celebrate the renewal of our partnership.”

The leaders of the Long Island City Partnership and the Queens Chamber of Commerce are hoping JetBlue remains at its present location.