The importance of Kennedy Airport is incalculable, and so is that of the man it was originally named for.
Due to overcrowding at his namesake airport, Mayor LaGuardia announced in 1941 that the city would build another one using Idlewild Golf Course and surrounding property.
Now for its name. Major Gen. Alexander Anderson was born in Manhattan in 1889. He joined the National Guard in 1910. He was a member of the famous “Fighting 69th” headquartered in the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan, which fought 164 days in combat in France in World War I. He returned a lieutenant colonel, married and had five children. He had a successful contracting company and bought a home at 61 Greenway Terrace in Forest Hills Gardens on a 77-by-121-foot lot.
In 1938, he was elected chairman of the Democratic County Committee of Queens. In 1942 he was appointed commander of the 86th Infantry at Fort Howze, Texas and was made honorary chairman of the committee. On Dec. 24, 1942 he was packing to fly home to attend his daughter Aileen’s wedding and abruptly passed away of a heart attack at age 53. In 1943 it was announced that the new airport was to be called Major General Alexander E. Anderson Airport. In March 1948 the City Council decided to change the name to New York International Airport/Anderson Field.
The airport opened July 1, 1948. Everyone called it Idlewild Airport. On Dec. 24, 1963 it was renamed Kennedy Airport in honor of the slain president. Anderson has been forgotten by history but his home last sold in 1989 for $965,000 and is valued at $3,100,000 in today’s market.