Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye announced Friday that the agency would be reopening the landmarked TWA Flight Center building at JFK Airport to the public.
But he’s not yet ready to say what for.
At an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ arrival in New York held inside the structure, Foye said the Port Authority would be announcing soon that the building will be open to the public. Its future purpose will be revealed in the next few months.
“Port Authority employees have painstakingly worked to renovate this building and we are excited to say it will be open again soon,” Foye said.
The terminal, built in 1962 and designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen — who also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis — served Trans World Airlines for nearly 40 years and for the last quarter century, was mainly used for the airline’s international flights. It was landmarked in 1994. TWA Flight 800 departed from the terminal on its ill-fated flight to Paris on July 17, 1996.
The terminal has not been used since October 2001, when TWA ceased operations. It sat vacant for almost a decade before the Port Authority renovated it. The agency said the building cannot be used as an airline terminal because it is obsolete. JetBlue built an entirely new Terminal 5 behind the Saarinen building. The passenger tubes that formerly connected the building to the flight gates now connect it to the new JetBlue terminal. The airline used the Saarinen building in its logo promoting its new JFK hub when it opened in 2008.
In October 2011 — tens years after closing — the newly renovated terminal reopened to the public for a one-day event to celebrate its then-upcoming 50th anniversary.
At the time, the Port Authority said it was considering constructing a hotel around the building and using the space as a public hall for shopping and dining. But the agency said any hotel project would have to include a structure that did not obstruct views of the Saarinen building from any angle.
The 52-year-old building has fared better than other historical terminals at JFK.
At Friday’s event, several former flight attendants for Pan Am expressed their sadness that their airline’s terminal, the Worldport, later called Terminal 3, had been demolished at the airport. Another notable terminal, I.M. Pei’s Sundrome, known as Terminal 6, adjacent to the TWA Flight Center, was demolished in 2012.