By Danny Schrafel
A proposal to privatize and expand the use of Republic Airport and develop the lands around it has gotten plenty of attention on the other side of the town line.
Business and civic leaders are weighing in on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recently detailed plans for the property, with some arguing it would be a shot of adrenaline for the Route 110 corridor, while civic leaders fear it will harm the quality of life.
Cuomo outlined his vision for Republic when he presented a consolidated version of his 2016 “Opportunity Agenda” for the state at Farmingdale State College on Feb. 5.
A cornerstone of that plan is hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure spending to be poured into upgrading downstate airports.
Republic Airport on Route 110 in Farmingdale came up in the context of Cuomo’s proposal to redevelop Kennedy and LaGuardia, privatizing the management of Republic (New York State DOT currently runs it) and redirecting some flights from Kennedy and LaGuardia with many Long Islanders on board to Republic to promote more efficient travel.
The governor also said he supports turning the Republic Airport campus into a tax-free zone, complete with a business park and free trade zone.
Melville Chamber of Commerce President Mike DeLuise said he likes Cuomo’s concept, but cautioned that any proposal must be carefully considered before proceeding with development.
“The idea, to look at it right now, is a great idea,” DeLuise said. “It needs some expert planning before we move to the next level.”
The tax-free zones around the airport could serve as an opportunity to foster the growth of small businesses, including technology and aeronautics endeavors, in and around Republic airport in Farmingdale and Melville.
Should the governor proceed, DeLuise also called for linking MacArthur Airport in Islip into Republic Airport revitalization plans. Locally, bus-rapid transportation and rail service should be linked into the new Republic Airport, he said.
“As we redo the 110 corridor and make it the business community of the future, we need better access to an airport,” he said.
However, civic associations serving Dix Hills, Melville and Farmingdale homeowners are already on high alert.
Alissa Taff, president of the Civic Association of Sweet Hollow, said leaders of her organization and the House Beautiful Civic Association in Dix Hills will join with leaders in Farmingdale to keep an eye on the plans and be ready to fight if they feel the state overreaches.
That would be a similar coalition to the one that pushed back against plans nearly two years ago by when SheltAir proposed reorienting a runway and adding as many as seven hangars and a new 30,000 square-foot operations building on 41 undeveloped acres south of its current headquarters. Civic leaders pushed back, arguing that the project would result in more – and larger – airplanes flying over Half Hollow Hills and Huntington school buildings. However, airport officials said at the time since the runway wasn’t growing, the planes wouldn’t be, either.
Those plans are moving forward, a state DOT spokesperson said Monday. The FAA is reviewing a final environmental impact statement and is expected to issue a decision on that “within the next few months,” the spokesperson said.