JFK airport’s $13B renovation includes central hub, 2 new terminals, Cuomo says

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday unveiled details of a plan to rebuild Kennedy Airport in Queens, with the goal of completely transforming the facility and increasing its capacity without any additional runways. 

The $13 billion project, financed mostly through private investment, will replace the current airport’s facilities with two new international terminals and a central hub — with indoor green space, art and shopping. The Port Authority plans to keep full operating schedules in place during the construction, scheduled to begin in 2020.

“JFK has been outdated all my life. I’m a Queens boy, in case you can’t tell the accent, but in my home when the call went out, ‘You have to pick someone up at JFK,’ it was a drawing of the short straws,” Cuomo joked at an Association for A Better New York breakfast in midtown. “That was torture. If you could survive the Van Wyck Expressway — put splinters under my fingernails instead.”

The rebuild will not come with a one-seat mass transit ride, as Cuomo had considered last year, and won’t provide new runways that some planning experts believe are needed to handle growing capacity at JFK.

Each year about 60 million passengers pass through JFK, which was built in 1948 and is the Port Authority’s busiest airport. That number is expected to leap to 75 million by 2030 and 100 million by 2050.

Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority, said the added capacity will be realized by “dramatically expanded” terminals, reconfigured taxiways and wider gates to accommodate larger planes. Cotton said the rebuild will increase the airport’s capacity by at least 15 million passengers a year. 

“Today, JFK is a hodgepodge of 8 disparate terminal sites. Some of the sites are literally vacant, some of the terminal buildings literally 50 or more years old,” Cotton said. “We’re transforming that disconnected hodgepodge into a unified 21st century airport.”

Two winning proposals for the new terminals are awaiting approval from the Port Authority. One proposal, from the Terminal 1 Coalition made up of Lufthansa, Air France, Japan Airlines and Korean Airlines, will build a new southern terminal, while JetBlue has been selected to build a new terminal on the north side of the airport adjacent to the existing terminal. The Port Authority will soon seek proposals for developing the central hub.

The two terminals will be built partially on two vacant sites, but will require the demolition of three outdated and undersized terminal buildings, according to Cotton.

The Port Authority will be responsible for $1 billion in funding, while private capital will cover the rest, including financing from The Carlyle Group, JLC Infrastructure, ULLICO, the Vantahge Airport Group and RXR Realty. Scott Rechler, CEO and chairman of RXR Realty, serves on the MTA board under an appointment by Cuomo.

JFK’s redesign will include adding cars on the AirTrain as well as already announced plans to widen connector ramps of the Van Wyck Expressway and Grand Central Parkway at the Kew Gardens Interchange to reduce bottlenecking. It will also add an additional lane in each direction to the Van Wyck.

The project falls short of the ideas proposed last fall by the Regional Plan Association, which pushed for two new runways and a one-seat transit ride from Manhattan.

“Many improvements could help reduce delays and handle additional passengers at JFK, Newark, and LaGuardia, including implementing new air traffic control technology, improving intercity rail service, and expanding service at other airports in the region,” the RPA wrote in its Fourth Regional Plan. “But the only thing that would significantly increase capacity at these major airports is building new runways."