County Executive George Latimer announced at a press conference on May 16 the next steps his administration would take with regard to the Westchester County Airport.
“We are laying out a process, without presuming what the final product will be, that results in a combination of citizen input, legislative discussion, executive branch review, input from professionals who run the airport and ultimately public policy that is set by my office and the board of legislators,” Latimer said. “This is what I believe has been missing in terms of dealing with airport issues.”
Latimer said he planned to encourage the county legislators to “explore the issue” of bringing in an outside firm to operate the airport. Last year, Macquarie Infrastructure Corp. was selected by then-County Executive Robert P. Astorino in a $1.1 billion public-private partnership.
Latimer said that the selection of Macquarie was made without sufficient discussion by the board of legislators and members of the public. To help remedy the issue, community members are invited to give their input at a meeting to be held on June 11 at the Hergenhan Recreation Center in Armonk.
“At that meeting, we’ll begin the process to hear public opinions about whether or not we should change the governance of the airport,” Latimer said.
Latimer hoped a decision regarding the operation of the airport would be made by mid-October.
In a statement, Macquarie said it “continues to believe in the merits of a revised and sustainable management approach to Westchester County Airport.”
“We respect the County Executive’s decision to thoroughly engage the public in a robust and open discussion of this valuable component of Westchester’s infrastructure, and we stand ready to participate in the discussion as he and his team deem appropriate,” the company added.
During his press conference, Latimer also noted that the county is “long overdue” in its commitmentto the Federal Aviation Administration to develop a master plan for the airport, a document that has been in the works since 2013. The last airport master plan dates to 1987.
The FAA has given the county a deadline of July 15 to submit a new master plan. Latimer said that in order to comply with that deadline, the county must submit the master plan that was developed for the Astorino administration by aviation consulting firm DY Consultants. The county paid DY Consultants $1.4 million to craft that master plan, though it was met with opposition from many community members.
Latimer said his administration plans to immediately begin work on a supplement to the master plan. The county will host a meeting on June 6 at the Rye Brook Village Hall to “begin the process of a master plan supplement discussion.”
“We know there’s a great interest in this issue, and we intend to make this as open and as public a dialogue as is possible,” he said.
The county will also conduct a review of the airport’s operations. A public meeting covering that topic will be held on June 25 at the West Harrison Senior Center.
“I want to make sure that we have a public discussion about those operational issues,” Latimer said. “I want to make sure we hear directly from the public on exactly what those problems are.”
The county will also appoint new members to the Airport Advisory Board next month.
“The change of the airport advisory board in principle is so that we get a group of individuals who are prepared to deal with these issues on an ongoing basis,” Latimer said.