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Queens Chronicle

New JFK Terminal 5 links old and new

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Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2008 12:00 am

Despite rising fuel prices, increasing costs and a diminishing number of travelers, JetBlue has opened its new state-of-the-art passenger terminal, equipped with everything from concession stands to e-ticket kiosks, at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

JetBlue Airways and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which spent about $875 million constructing the three-level, 635,000-square-foot building, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Terminal 5 at the airport on Monday.

A host of elected officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Chuck Schumer, were present at the long-awaited debut of Terminal 5 — one of the first terminals in the country to be completely designed and built after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Revitalizing and enhancing Kennedy International Airport is an essential part of New York’s growing travel and tourism industry, according to Bloomberg.

“JetBlue’s new terminal represents a major investment in New York City and is a tremendous vote of confidence in our future,” Bloomberg said. “Expanding our tourism industry — last year we hit a record 46 million visitors — is an important part of our effort to diversify New York City’s economy, and, as Wall Street stumbles, that effort is more important than ever.”

The city has set a goal of drawing 50 million visitors annually by 2012, and private investments will assist in that effort by creating thousands of jobs and marketing to tourists, the mayor added.

The 26-gate terminal, set to open in October, can support 250 flights a day and doubles the airline’s capacity to 20 million passengers a year. It might even appeal to non-travelers who would want to visit it just for the sake of seeing its new 55,000-square-foot retail area with 22 food concessions and 35 specialty retail stores.

Travelers will have an easy time getting through JetBlue’s new facility, which is connected to the landmarked TWA Terminal, as it will have two ticketing areas with 40 ticket counters and 65 e-ticket kiosks. Those areas will flank what will be the largest single security checkpoint in the United States.

The checkpoint is capable of accommodating 20 screening lanes, an automated baggage system and electronic displays that direct customers to their gates. Soft rubber flooring and a 225-foot-long bench will help passengers collect themselves after passing through it, according to Gensler, the architectural group.

In addition to Gensler, Terminal 5’s building team was made up of a number of other architects, and a host of engineers, designers and construction managers who broke ground in November of 2005. The PA provided nearly $800 million in financing for the new terminal, which is part of the agency’s 10-year, $29.5 billion capital plan.

The PA’s contribution is “a smart, forward-looking investment” to create new capacity at the airport, according to PA Chairman Anthony Coscia.

But, while the terminal is brand new and modern, the historic element of its design — its physical connection to the adjacent 46-year-old TWA Terminal — is a key element of its wonder, according to PA and JetBlue officials. Passengers will be able to connect between the two structures through the historic building’s flight wing tubes.

The landmarked structure, which was designed by renowned architect Eero Saarinen, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Schumer, who called Monday a historic day, praised the airline, saying it “has brought a national landmark back to life and put it at the epicenter of air transportation.”

In keeping with the theme of old and new, JetBlue held a viewing during Terminal 5’s inauguration of a 1937 Lockheed 12A Electra — the oldest flying TWA aircraft and the first to travel from California via an original route of the airline’s first coast-to-coast passenger trip.

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