Airport Projects Put Focus on Queens

But in an effort to reach residents from the Rockaways, the redevelopment program will open a satellite office at the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation in Far Rockaway. Another initiative is reserving concession venues for New York City-based restaurants, particularly in Queens. The Port Authority will begin a training program to prepare businesses to compete for those opportunities.

The third focus is a $3 million initiative to support and expand STEM programs at York College. In 2020, the college will host a summer program, along with Saturday sessions in the fall and spring. Finally, Cotton said, the Port Authority will establish a second-chance employment office, which has been an emphasis for the advisory council.

The agency will work closely with half a dozen organizations that specialize in identifying candidates for jobs who have had previous involvement in the criminal justice system. The employment opportunities will not only be at the airports, he said, but across all Port Authority facilities.

“That pattern and that outreach was really based on feedback from the advisory council,” Cotton said, “which we view as the avenue by which we can get direct feedback from the community.”

The Port Authority has faced its share of challenges with the development projects. Cotton said completely rebuilding LaGuardia, while also maintaining the full capacity of the existing airport, has been an “enormous challenge.”

The agency doesn’t tear down any of the old buildings until they have built additional capacity with a new operational facility.

“That means we have to follow what’s almost a hopscotch pattern in terms of development,” he said.

To address traffic and congestion on the roads leading to the airport, the Port Authority established an Airport Operations Center. Cotton said every hour the airport is open, there is a command center with banks of monitors watching “every square inch of the roadway network.”

Whenever the roadway becomes congested, the operations center makes judgements about readjusting traffic flow, sending vehicles to either arrivals or departure and ensuring no cars are double-parked. They even have four tow trucks stationed around the clock at the airport in case a car breaks down.

“We can’t have a disabled vehicle on any roadways for any significant period of time,” Cotton said.

The challenges are worsened when peak construction meets peak travel times, especially on the days leading in and out of a weekend, summer and the holiday season.

“The level of effort that has gone into sustaining the operation of the airport while the construction is underway has been huge,” he said.

So far at LaGuardia Airport, the redevelopment has finished building a new parking garage, new 18-gate concourse on the western side of Terminal B and a new seven-gate concourse on the eastern side. Each took between nine to 12 months to complete. By the middle of next year, a large arrivals and departures hall, which can be prominently seen from the Grand Central Parkway, will be opened on the western half of the airport.

After that, openings will shift back to the eastern side. Cotton estimated that by the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022, the entire roadway network should be open.

“There will be a continuous integrated frontage of the whole new LaGuardia,” he said.

The LaGuardia AirTrain, which is currently in the environmental review process, is expected to begin construction 18 months from now and be complete by 2024. At JFK Airport, the new 512-bed TWA Hotel is open and operational. With new passenger facilities, Cotton said he expects the first groundbreaking of the new Terminal 8, run by American Airlines and British Airlines, to be this fall.

“Once it starts, it’s going to gain momentum,” he said.

By mid-next year, there will be more groundbreakings. The first will be for Terminal 1, which is run by a consortium of four international airlines: Lufthansa, Air France, Japan Airlines and Korean Airlines. After that will be the international terminal next to JetBlue’s existing terminal. They expect the first gates to open in late 2021 or early 2022.

“The scale of the JFK construction will be quite dramatic,” Cotton said, “as well as LaGuardia’s.”

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