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BCW stresses importance of Westchester County Airport for economic development

Westchester County Executive George Latimer has conducted two of three scheduled public hearings on the
future direction of Westchester County Airport, with the final hearing set for 7 p.m. on June 25 at the West Harrison Senior Center, 251 Underhill Ave., West Harrison.

John Ravitz, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Business Council of Westchester, spoke at the hearings in Rye Brook on June 6 and Armonk on June 11. Both meetings attracted between 100-150 residents.

“I want to echo what I think is going to be a constant theme tonight, County Executive Latimer – thank you,” Ravitz said in Rye Brook. “We need transparency in government and we need transparency in business. And working together, we can achieve some very exciting things at the airport.”

Stressing the importance for economic development, Ravitz went on to say that the airport is a critical tool in the recruitment and retention of businesses in Westchester. The airport is also “a real incubator” for workforce development across various industries, he said, adding that the BCW choses to hang its Hall of Fame plaques at the airport to promote the powerful number and quality of businesses in Westchester.

Westchester County is currently working on submitting a Master Plan to the Federal Aviation Administration, due next month. Westchester County Airport currently serves commercial airlines, corporate hangers and light aviation. Concerns about increased noise and traffic patterns, air and environmental safeguards and a commitment not to expand the airport have been paramount among residents at the hearings.

One of the biggest questions on the table is the potential for a public/private partnership at the airport. Westchester has the option to join the federal Airport Privatization Program by signing a long-term lease with a private company, which would free up airport revenues to be used in the county’s general fund. Creating a public/private partnership at the airport has been a BCW legislative priority for the last three years.

“We shouldn’t be opposed to thinking about bringing in partners who have experience in running and operating airports, that deal with many of the quality of life issues that we’ve heard about tonight,” Ravitz said, specifically noting many of the environmental protections raised by speakers. “There are companies that have really gone in and been good community partners, and that’s what we at the Business Council have always called for in terms of bringing in that type of partnership at the airport.”

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