As the $2 billion LaGuardia AirTrain proposal awaits final federal approval later this month, which will clear the way for construction to begin this summer, the Port Authority is touting the project’s community benefit as an economic engine.
The project, connecting the airport with transit options at Willets Point, will deliver more than $500 million in contracting opportunities, with a focus on minority- and women-owned businesses as well as contracting opportunities for Queens-based businesses while creating approximately 3,000 union construction jobs. The project will also implement multiple workforce development programs such as training for union apprenticeships and job referral initiatives to see that local residents are trained for jobs.
“Among the many community benefits to come with AirTrain LaGuardia, the Port Authority has set a goal of hiring 80 percent of the project’s permanent workforce locally,” a Port Authority spokesperson said. “The successor local hiring at JFK AirTrain demonstrates the project’s potential to provide real economic benefits to the communities around LaGuardia, including local, Queens-based and M/WBE businesses. The project will also fund investments in educational opportunities, community events and local parks.”
AirTrain JFK is considered to be an economic success story not just for local community members finding job opportunities, but finding significant career advancement. Of the initial group of hires nearly 19 years ago, AirTrain JFK staff have advanced within the organization and outside it. Several have gone on to run airport “people movers” around the world and around the nation. Others have gone on to senior jobs in regional transit agencies.
When Bombardier was originally contracted to design, build, operate and maintain AirTrain JFK in 2001 it hired applicants along the route from Jamaica to Howard Beach. Of the first 135 employees hired, 90 percent lived in neighboring communities. Of those initial employees, 22 percent remain with AirTrain JFK, with two rising to the position of director, including Shameeka Brown-Richardson of Jamaica, who, after four promotions, is currently a senior operations manager.
“I’ve worked my way up,” Brown-Richardson said. “This opportunity has meant a lot to me. It has allowed me to take care of my family and it has given me great career opportunities. I was looking for a job 19 years ago and now I’ve turned it into a career. I grew up with AirTrain.”
Alstrom took over the operations of AirTrain JFK from Bombardier and continues to hire locally.
“As the provider of operations and maintenance services for the AirTrain JFK system, Alstrom has continuously offered personal and professional opportunities for residents and businesses in Jamaica and the surrounding communities,” an Alstrom spokesperson said. “Whether through jobs or through contracts for products and services, the Port Authority-Alstrom partnership has been providing economic benefits to the areas surrounding AirTrain JFK for almost 20 years.”
And it provides a roadmap for the LaGuardia AirTrain workforce development program, which will fund 75 new pre-apprenticeship seats in coordination with the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and the Apprenticeship Readiness Collective to provide a pathway to apprenticeship positions, with a priority for local residents and the expansion of the CAO LaGuardia Career Center in partnership with Elmcor and Queens Neighborhood Housing Services, to match local residents with permanent AirTrain operations and maintenance jobs, in addition to the airport operations, maintenance and concession jobs.