A $161-million project is underway that will yield the largest cargo development in the 54-year history of John F. Kennedy International Airport and is expected to bring in more than 2,000 local construction jobs.
Airis Holdings Corporation, the largest developer of aviation facilities in the world, broke ground recently on the project, which will build two cargo terminals totaling 435,000 square feet. The construction is expected to be completed next summer.
The funding for the project is being paid for through tax-exempt, special airport facility revenue bonds issued by the New York City Industrial Development Agency. The partners for the project include Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor George Pataki and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK.
The project is aiming to double the more than 1.7-million tons of freight that moves through JFK by 2011. According to Robert Kelly, senior vice president of Airis, the increased cargo plans will not necessarily translate into increased flights, a probable fear of many homeowners near the New York airports.
“It is more of a relocation of our facilities than anything else,” he said from the company’s home base in Scottdale, Georgia. “We accept cargo from other airlines, but we don’t look to move out the cargo ourselves. So from our end it will not mean more flights.”
The outline of the project states that the “project site, previously used for comparable cargo purposes, replaces buildings of similar size and will not increase traffic congestion, cargo traffic, or aircraft operations by tenant carriers.”
However, although the new cargo buildings being built by Airis are not expected to result in more air traffic by the current tenants, it remains to be seen whether or not the new facilities will indeed translate into more flights coming in and out of Kennedy as it attracts new airlines to the buildings.
Mayor Bloomberg hopes the new facilities attract new business to the airport.
“With JFK as a global air cargo hub, it is imperative that carriers have access to world-class cargo facilities,” he said in a statement.
“With this project, New York City will gain more than 434,000 square feet of state-of-the-art air cargo facilities. These facilities will provide improved services to companies currently operating at the airport, and will attract new air cargo carriers and related businesses to JFK.”
The companies slated to use the new terminals for cargo transfer include Lufthansa Cargo, Alliance Airlines, Cargo Service Center and Lufthansa Technik. Close to 25 percent of air cargo coming into the United States passes through JFK and Newark airports, totaling close to 3 million tons each year.
Of the total square footage for the terminals, about 344,000 square feet of that will be actual cargo warehouse space. Another 88,000 square feet will be used for office space and about 3,000 square feet is for a service equipment maintenance facility. The entire project is spread out over 42 acres of land.
The new terminals are replacing two old cargo facilities that, according to Kelly, the airlines had essentially outgrown.
“A lot of the facilities have been in use for 30 years and the aircraft they used 30 years ago are no longer the same kind they use today,” he said. “The planes are bigger and the way of operating cargo has changed. The cargo moves through the warehouse so much quicker and this is a much more efficient design which is wide open.”
The problem caused by the old hangars that were used is that they could no longer accommodate the cargo traffic that was coming into JFK. If one carrier was already using the building, then it would require transferring cargo into another area in order to allow another plane to use the facility at the same time.
“These buildings provide maximum opportunity for cargo transfer because they are properly spaced out,” Kelly said.
A nearly 500,000-square-foot aircraft ramp will allow for six Boeing 747 freighters and both facilities will also have direct access to the Van Wyk Expressway, which will make for easier transfer of cargo out of the airport. There will be 101 truck docks in place at the location.
The construction is being handled by Barney-Beers, a collaborative effort between two contractors with offices in New York City.
Work has already been completed on the first stage of the project, which involved clearing the 42 acres of land and driving in the 3,000 steel and timber piles that will serve as the foundation for the facilities.