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By David Brand
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that New York City will extend the Port Authority’s lease at JFK Airport after COVID-19 and budget shortfalls slowed a planned overhaul expected to create 20,000 jobs.
De Blasio said he would sign an executive order to extend the lease from 2050 to 2060 without forcing the Port Authority to apply through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
In exchange for the break on land use requirements, de Blasio said the Port Authority would continue to adhere to a community benefits agreement created in partnership with Southeast Queens residents and leaders in 2018. The various agreements include hiring people of color for 30 percent of construction jobs and women for 7 percent of construction jobs while making “best efforts” to hire workers from Southeast Queens zip codes surrounding the airport.
“We’re going to do it with a package of actions that will make sure there is economic empowerment, that a lot of the wealth generated in JFK gets redistributed in the surrounding communities,” de Blasio said.
“We want to go a lot further on local hiring,” he added.
Most of the diversity, hiring and environmental goals described by the de Blasio administration Monday were part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Port Authority’s original JFK Redevelopment Plan announcement in 2018.
The airport overhaul is estimated to cost $13 billion and is projected to create up to 20,000 jobs. But COVID-19 and the Port Authority’s budget deficit have complicated the timeline for the project, said U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks.
“Today’s lease extension announcement will allow for deal restructuring which will ensure the long term sustainability of JFK’s redevelopment and allow us on the federal level to continue our work to address the Port’s $3 billion shortfall with the Biden Administration in the upcoming COVID-19 relief bill, a real threat to job growth in New York,” he said in a statement.
Under the agreement, the Port Authority is required to administer 30 percent of contracts to companies owned by minority and women-owned business enterprises, or MWBEs, in financing, construction, design and operations. The agreement package advises the Port Authority to prioritize local MWBEs.
The package also calls on the transit agency to uphold certain environmental standards, establish local scholarships and create an Office of Second Chance Employment to connect formerly incarcerated or justice-involved New Yorkers with airport jobs.
“What a good day for Queens,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “Today’s announcement to extend JFK’s lease is a win for our borough indeed and for our city.”
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