Public Forum on the new Master Plan for Westchester County Airport At Manhattanville College June 2, 2022
Remarks by John Ravitz, Executive VP & COO
The Business Council of Westchester
On behalf of the Coalition for Westchester County Airport
I am John Ravitz, Executive Vice President & COO of the BCW. I am speaking to you this evening on behalf of the BCW and our Coalition for Westchester County Airport
With the onset of the Covid Pandemic and the concurrent drop in air traffic, discussion about the Westchester County Airport, long a hot topic, largely slipped off the radar screen. That lull, however, has come to an end as County Executive Latimer has initiated a series of public forums including tonight’s, kick-starting his pledge to create an updated Airport Master Plan that will set the course for the long-term future of this vital facility. We applaud the County Executive’s initiative in advancing this all-important process.
The Business Council of Westchester has long been a leading advocate for having a modern, safe and appropriately sized airport to serve what we refer to as the 3 C’s: the Traveling Community, the Business Community and the Neighboring Community. Each of these distinct constituencies has a stake in the airport and its operations, and their thoughts opinions deserve to be weighed and balanced.
In 2018 the BCW founded the Coalition for Westchester County Airport to support efforts to “enhance not expand” this vital resource. With the resumption of the Master Plan process, we have re-activated the Coalition to provide a unified, focused voice for the business community to participate in the review process. We will work closely with our members and encourage others to join the Coalition to share their thoughts and views as the Master Plan process moves forward.
The BCW and the Airport Coalition firmly believe that Westchester Airport is a key element in our transportation infrastructure and is one of our most valuable economic assets. It plays an essential role in attracting and retaining businesses that are the backbone of our economy. Additionally, the airport itself is a major employer providing more than 1,500 workers with a wide range of skilled, high-paying jobs as well as workforce development and training, and it benefits numerous other outside businesses that provide goods and services.
The Westchester County Airport has long been subject to strong opinions both for and against. Unfortunately, over the years myths all too often compete with facts making rationale discussions difficult. One of the most enduring myths is that the Airport is in danger of becoming LaGuardia North. No one wants or supports that. Yet, making necessary improvements to existing facilities, installing modern, technologically advanced services and systems that minimize noise, reduce unnecessary fights, and protect the environment are often portrayed by opponents as signs that LaGuardia is on its way!
In fact, the businesses based at the airport have demonstrated that given the opportunity to make significant new investments to the airport’s infrastructure, they can reduce noise and make numerous other environmental improvements that benefit everyone.
A shining example is Million Air, a national and international provider of private jet flights and services. In the last three years Million Air replaced an outdated hanger with a state-of-the-art facility, as well as opening a world-class passenger terminal. Both employ advanced energy reduction and pollution control technologies. And as part of the construction, the company was able to install an advanced drainage and retention system to control and treat runoff. And the company is ready to invest more in a second hangar!
All of this has been done by redeveloping an outmoded property that is leased from the county, which, in turn, gains significant revenue. But the environmental benefits go far beyond. For example, being able to store more aircraft indoors onsite, means far fewer flights of empty aircraft from other airports to and from Westchester to pick up and drop off passengers from companies based in Westchester.
Common sense would point to encouraging more investments like those made by Million Air which benefit of all three airport constituencies – and the county government. This is the kind of thinking and planning that we would hope is included in the studies for the new Master Plan. The challenge to those conducting the research will be to separate the facts from the myths.
Aircraft noise, for example, is a topic that easily veers from fact to myth and emotions. Despite advancements in manufacturing quieter aircraft, for those living near the facility, noise is a fact of life and, not surprisingly, draws complaints. In an effort to factually understand noise levels and sources, the county has added advanced new noise monitoring devices to identify levels and violations. Unfortunately, a small number of neighbors using recently developed electronic devices continues to flood the county monitor office with thousands of automated complaints, overwhelming the system. These actions by a few households cripple the monitoring system and effectively undermine the validity of the data gathering.
Various environmental concerns including runoff into streams and the Kensico Reservoir, have also been a source of clash between fact and myth. For example, the Rye Lake/Kensico Reservoir is near the airport. Some environmental groups persist in stating that runoff from the airport is contaminating the reservoir imperiling the quality of the drinking water of millions. Yet, as County Executive Latimer recently emphasized, there is no runoff or contamination reaching the reservoir from the airport, and to say so “is a lie.” Yet, this myth will undoubtedly continue to be perpetuated by some.
The BCW Coalition recognizes that when it comes to the airport, emotions can run high. We respect the concerns that are expressed, while seeking to deal with facts rather than emotions. We will continue to do our part to present the facts and have an open, mature discussion of how to enhance not expand this key element in our transportation network and economy.
Put simply, the Westchester County Airport is a vital service to the general traveling public and the business traveler, and in proving these services it must recognize and respect the neighboring community. As the new Master Plan is developed, the views and needs of each of these three communities must be considered and accommodated to the extent possible.
In the coming weeks and months, as the proposed revised Master Plan evolves, we are confident that working together as community, a balanced and practical fact-based approach for the future of this unique airport can be achieved.
To join the BCW Coalition for Westchester Airport, contact John Ravitz, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org
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