Latimer Seems to Turn Page on County Airport P3; Puts Out RFP on Airport’s Future Use

John Jordan | May 2019

Westchester County Airport. Photo Credit: westchestergov.com

WHITE PLAINS—Westchester County Executive George Latimer has seemed to move away from a $1.1-billion public-private partnership negotiated by the former administration of Robert Astorino at Westchester County Airport and issued a new Request for Proposals to study economic and environmental issues in connection with the airport’s master plan.

County Executive Latimer in announcing the release of the RFP on May 29 stressed that the reviews underway will not involve any expansion of airport operations. The new RFP incorporates what the county termed as “unprecedented public input” that included substantial public comment from the business community, environmentalists and the general public. The RFP will focus on securing recommendations regarding economic impacts, environmental concerns and overall safety at the airport and will serve as a supplement to the airport’s master plan.

“When we submitted the master plan last summer to the FAA we did so knowing the plan needed to have a supplement. I’m pleased today that we heard from the public on a variety of issues and are now moving forward with an RFP to create a supplement,” Latimer said. “The airport is an important part of our county, and while I have no intention of expanding it, we must have a plan to move forward to help business and protect the environment.”

The RFP release seems to signal the possible abandonment or at the very least delay of a much-heralded public-private partnership deal at the airport. In November 2017, former Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino announced he had selected Macquarie Infrastructure Corporation of New York City to operate Westchester County Airport as part of a $1.1-billion public-private partnership.

Macquarie was the unanimous choice of a bi-partisan task force made up of members of the Astorino administration and the Board of Legislators to evaluate three proposals received in April 2017 to manage, operate, maintain and improve the airport under a long-term lease. However, while the overall P3 plan received significant support from the Westchester County Board of Legislators at the time, the plan was not ratified by the County Board of Legislators prior to Astorino leaving office at the end of 2017.

A spokesperson for Macquarie said the firm had no comment on the county’s release of the RFP for further review of the county airport.

Latimer during his campaign for County Executive was critical of the P3 deal and said he would study the proposal and seek public input on the future direction of Westchester County Airport.

The Request for Proposals issued by the county on May 29 seeks the services of a professional consulting firm or team of firms with extensive experience in airport planning, economics and New York State and federal environmental regulations to assist in developing an update of management and development policies related to Westchester County Airport and performing an environmental review.

The selected firm will be required to evaluate the airport as a “unique resource and economic generator for the county and region;” develop and evaluate alternatives to improve operational safety and efficiency of the airport, including facility modifications and modernizations as necessary; and evaluate and develop alternatives to continue to improve environmental performance at the airport.

The consultant shall prepare a report depicting the existing conditions of the airport and describing the benefits and costs associated with the proposed recommendations developed in connection with its charge to evaluate the airport as a unique resource and economic generator for the county and region and evaluate and develop alternatives to continue to improve environmental performance at the airport.

The firm will also prepare an environmental impact statement for the proposed actions pursuant to the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act.

County officials also noted that it plans to issue a second Westchester County Airport RFP that will seek a firm to develop a public engagement program via online tools, as well as community charrettes and workshops. The county anticipates that three public meetings and three half-day workshops, with groups to be identified will be held in connection with the airport study.

The Business Council of Westchester was a major supporter of the P3 plan proposed by the Astorino Administration in 2017. John Ravitz, executive vice president of the Business Council of Westchester told Real Estate In-Depth that the county executive has the right to conduct his own studies of the airport, but noted that there was extensive review undertaken as part of the P3 initiative. The Business Council formed a Coalition for Westchester County Airport in August 2018 to working on enhancing—not expanding —services at the airport for the business community.

“The County Executive is following through on his commitment to supplement the airport Master Plan. The BCW Coalition for Westchester Airport supports making reasonable enhancements to enable this critically important resource to better serve and protect the traveling, business and neighboring communities,” Ravitz said. “A great deal of work has already been done in terms of addressing many of the issues that the County Executive wants to see studied, particularly with regard to environmental concerns and community transparency. Extensive data gathered for previous proposals submitted to the county has already been thoroughly reviewed and vetted in a bipartisan manner by members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators and should be utilized in any additional reviews.”

He added later, “Gathering supplemental information can be useful, but it is our hope that this does not cause further delays than necessary. The Coalition will continue to actively work with the county in this collaborative effort, while at the same time monitoring the actions and steps being taken to assure the future of this essential transportation, workforce and economic development hub for our county.”

Quick Facts: Westchester County Airport

697 acres
Dedicated Feb. 13, 1945

20 aircraft hangars
188 based single engine and light twin engine aircraft
94 based corporate jets

442 average landings/takeoffs per day
161,146 total airport operations (2017)

1,485 full time employees, 440 Part Time, 9 Temporary
$735 million in economic activity generated (2012 study)
6,328 jobs +/- are directly or indirectly related to the Airport (2012 study)

Source: Westchester County

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth