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No more plane Jane for JFK, LaGuardia

By James Hagedorn

New Yorkers will have the last laugh when a $30 billion program to bring area airports into the 21st century is completed.

Speaking at the Urban Land Institute’s presentation on The Future of NYC’s Airports, Derek Utter chief development officer at The Port Authority, said, “Everybody knows that our airports have been ranked among the lowest. Now we are taking our subpar legacy airports to what we consider world-class.


“This started with the governor’s vision,” added Utter, explaining how $30 billion in public-private partnership cash has been pumped into the infrastructure of Newark, LaGuardia, and most recently, JFK as part of “the largest airport investment anywhere in the world right now.”

The injection of capital aims to relieve Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK from being the butt-end of jokes among travelers and aerospace industry workers around the world.

Looking to update members on the progress of the airport plan, the ULI hosted its panel with Columbia University construction expert Francisco Pineda moderating a discussion between Thomas Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Christina Callahan, deputy general manager at The Port Authority and Dr. Gerrard Bushell, Executive Chair at JFK’s New Terminal One Development Project.

The big figure and capital intensive plan has four main objectives; the redevelopment of both Newark and JFK, a new airport at LaGuardia, and the installation of air trains to cut down on emissions and consumer travel log-jams.

LaGuardia, the first airport to rebuild after 75 years of growth in the volume of international flights, is going on its’ fourth year of construction as the Port Authority reaffirms we have passed the half-way point.

The rebuilding LaGuardia is the first new airport in the country since Denver in 1995.”

“We have an ambitious timeline, the first new gates are now open. We intend to complete the headhouse by mid-year. Delta’s head house will be completed in 2021. And the airport will be completed in 2022,” said Utter.

Two private sector partners, LaGuardia Gateway Partners, a consortium of Vantage, Skanska, and Meridian; and JLC infrastructure, an investment group of Loop Capital and Magic Johnson Enterprises, provided imperative P3 (public-private-partnership) financing for the project.

In February 2018, the Port Authority board approved the largest design-build contract in the history of New Jersey by approving a plan to construct a world-class Terminal 1 to replace the half-century-old Terminal A at EWR.

The first 21 gates will open in 2021, with a new facility fully operational by the end of the following year, according to Utter.

At the end of last year, the Port Authority began to take steps in financial planning the replacement of Terminal B.

JFK also has ambitions renovations and structural changes coming to its format.

Construction will soon begin on transforming the six terminals into four, creating an additional three million s/f of terminal space, and establishing a new road network that streamlines the current spaghetti-style system.

Utter said, “90 percent of the funding is coming from the private sector, leveraged with about a billion dollars of Port Authority capital.”

The projects at New York City’s airways are extremely rare cases of airline cooperation with airport construction groups.

Dr. Gerrard Bushell, Carlyle Group and Executive Chair of The New Terminal One Development Project said, “We are partnering with four world-class airlines that, quite candidly, do not put capital into any other airport across the globe, but they do it here because this is where the action is, where the volume is, and this is where you see the opportunity.”

JetBlue put $3 billion towards the construction of a new terminal at JFK.

The Terminal One Group Association made up of Lufthansa, Air France, Japan Airlines and Korean Air have a total cost of their terminal at JFK at $7.6 billion.

“We’re not delivering a construction project. We’re building a business,” said Bushell. “An airport is a mini-city, with a business, with passengers, dealing with traffic, dealing with noise and creating jobs. That is how we’re tackling them. P3 projects, win or die, not just on our ability our inability to bring this project if you cannot engage the community and find space or engagement, your project will hold up or go sideways,”

New Yorkers will still have at least a half-decade before all three projects at the airports are completed.

In the meanwhile, job creation remains the main positive. “You see 2,500 construction workers (at LaGuardia) on any given day, who are working across the entire airport,” said Christina Callahan, noting those workers will be deployed to the other airport projects.

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