RPR&C In The Media


Long Island Business News – Joe Capobianco: Ideas for Republic need more airing

February 17, 2015 Posted in: RPR&C In The Media




February 17, 2015

Capobianco: Ideas for Republic need more airing

By Joe Capobianco

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been on the stump of late, suggesting that Republic Airport should be privatized, turned into a tax-free enterprise zone and transformed into a commercial airport.

It’s all worth examining since Republic remains a crucial transportation asset for the region, but can these proposals withstand the reality of air traffic in New York and the business model needed to support aviation?

For starters, let’s look at the two Republic runways, which are 6,833 feet and 5,516 feet long. They can and do accept the occasional charter 737 jet filled with hockey players or thoroughbred horses. In fact, the president’s Air Force Two landed at the Farmingdale airport during the Bush Administration, so the current runways are perfectly adequate for commercial passenger flights. In addition, regularly scheduled commercial service operated out of Republic some 30 years ago before declaring bankruptcy and pulling out.

These days, commercial airliners come in all shapes and sizes dependent on the intention of the airlines to serve which market, at what price point and with what kind of service. For example, a number of airlines are using 50-passenger regional jets to connect various cities, and such aircraft creates a healthy enough profit for those companies to sustain operations.

However, one infrastructure area of concern at Republic will be parking. While the current Republic terminal has been adequate for charter flights to Atlantic City, a commercial airline arriving in Farmingdale would probably need to invest in parking to make sure its passengers had a place to put their cars. Increased ground security and a significant TSA presence would also need to be funded.

Another area of concern is the air space above Republic. Currently, a steady parade of jets bound for LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports can be seen flying over Republic’s runways and reflects the enormous number of aircraft in the air at any given time in the region. How would the introduction of many more aircraft entering the New York air traffic control system from Republic Airport add to the complexity of an already congested environment?  Without the direct involvement and approval of the Federal Aviation Administration, the commercial airline proposal for Republic would become problematic if it doesn’t fit into the FAA’s master plan for air traffic control now being designed to meet future needs.

Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of this state proposal is the destructive effect it would have on Long Island MacArthur Airport. That facility had totally depended upon Southwest Airlines to reinvent the airport as a major traffic “reliever” for LaGuardia and Kennedy when Southwest invested millions at MacArthur. That airline reduced its Long Island presence when it gained far more lucrative slots to operate out of LaGuardia. As the airport has lost flights, and other airlines have come and gone from the gates, the Town of Islip, owner of the airport, has faced multimillion-dollar losses and has struggled to keep from dipping into the town’s general fund to make up the difference.

Cuomo’s plan could force the Islip town board to strategically reconsider how MacArthur Airportworks. For example, it could finally confront the spasmodic NIMBY reaction to lengthening MacArthur’s runways and, by doing so, allow the airport to accept larger, more profitable jets that would incentivize the airlines into rethinking MacArthur as a destination. It could seek federal dollars to create intermodal terminal space adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road’s Ronkonkoma station currently across the field. It could consider privatizing part of its operation and improving efficiencies since it is only one of two municipally owned airports in the state.

And, it could seek state legislation that would allow the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to assume ownership and operation of MacArthur, giving it the means to be part of a unified system of airports that would address the growing passenger needs of the tri-state region.

The governor’s Republic plan will ultimately be decided by the forces of the marketplace, but as a travel agent of change, it has the ability to rethink how we view all our airports.

Capobianco, an attorney with the law firm of Reisman, Peirez, Reisman and Capobianco of Garden City, concentrates his practice in business and commercial law and also serves as a member of the Glen Cove City Council.