JFK airport renovation proposal unveiled by Cuomo

It’s one high-flying proposal.

Governor Andrew Cuomo Wednesday unveiled a multi-billion dollar plan to rehabilitate Kennedy Airport as well as travel connections to the facility.

The three-pronged plan, completely reimagines the airport while also attempting to address access on roads and through mass transit.

The overhaul would come at the tune of about $10 billion, with around $7 billion coming from private investment.

It was put forth by Cuomo’s Airport Master Plan Advisory Panel, which is also overseeing the redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport, as a way to accommodate projected passenger increases.

“JFK ranks 59 of the world’s top 100 airports. Now remember, JFK was literally one of the first, when it was built, it was ahead of its time! Now time has passed us by and JFK is number 59. That’s bad,” said Cuomo, who introduced the proposal at a luncheon for the nonprofit Association for a Better New York, alongside a panel of transit officials including outgoing MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast and Daniel Tishman, CEO of Tishman Construction Company and chair of the Governor’s Airport Master Plan Advisory Panel.

“Our region deserves a world class international airport fit for the demands of the 21st century,” said Tishman. “We’re calling for the end for the airport’s piecemeal development approach of the past to create a unified, interconnected and modern airport.”

About 60 million travelers pass through JFK annually. That number is expected to leap to 75 million by 2030 and 100 million by 2050.

The proposal would expand the newer terminals to meet growing passenger demands. Older terminals would be redeveloped and relocated to increase connectivity. The roads in the airport facility itself would be reworked create a less-complex circular route.

By car, Cuomo’s administration wants to widen connector ramps of the Van Wyck Expressway and Grand Central Parkway at the Kew Gardens Interchange to reduce bottlenecking. It would also add an additional lane in each direction to the Van Wyck. This would cost anywhere between $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

Cuomo said his administration was still deciding between two options to address mass transit access to the airport. One would focus solely on improving JFK AirTrain service and its links to the rest of the area’s transit network. This option would increase service frequency while also doubling the number of cars per train, from two to four. It would also bring a complete overhaul to the Jamaica transit hub to improve transferring to the AirTrain from the subway and LIRR.

“This transfer is hardly a world-class experience,” said Prendergast. “You’re traversing multiple levels and you could accurately use the word ‘schlepping’ with your luggage.”

The other option for public transit riders would be to explore the feasibility of a one-seat ride to JFK though this option was not elaborated on further.

Owen Gutfreund, associate professor of Urban Affairs and Planning Hunter College, believes that fixing the Kew Gardens Interchange would have little impact on reducing congestion.

Improving frequency and reliability of the AirTrain would be beneficial — but not as much as securing a one-seat ride to the airport from New York City, he added.

“Most of the traffic going into JFK isn’t coming from Jamaica,” he said. “Because of the bi-state nature of the Port Authority, there’s money being spent to improve access and bring that one-seat ride to Newark. We really need to do that for JFK and LaGuardia. The Port Authority must stop thinking as two states and start thinking of this as a system of three airports.”