Astorino Reveals Investment Firm to Run Westchester County Airport
The winning bid to privatize Westchester County Airport has been selected, but doubts still remain.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEFAN RADTKE
MIC Airports, LLC, the subsidiary of investment firm Macquarie Infrastructure Corporation which currently runs operators at both Stewart International Airport and Teterboro Airport, has been chosen as the winning bid to run Westchester County Airport by a six-person, bi-partisan group of county legislators and administrators.
That bid totals around $1.145 billion spread out over 40 years. $595 million of that will be monetary ($300 million upfront, with $30 million available for the county to spend in the first year), with an addition of $550 million in funding dedicated to maintain and improve operations and infrastructure at the airport.
In an effort to assuage previous concerns, the lease is described in official announcements as “as-is,” meaning MIC will be able to renovate and improve the airport only within the confines of its current size and passenger load. The terminal “footprint” and runways will not expand into surrounding lands, the total number of gates will remain six, and there will still be a maximum passenger cap at 240 per half-hour.
In his announcement, County Executive Robert Astorino described the deal as working akin to a mortgage: “By receiving money up front and then spreading payments over the course of the lease, the county has created a guaranteed revenue stream of more than $6 million a year to pay for county services.” These services would reportedly include police, parks, day care, road services, and environmental programs such as water treatment facilities and preparing a plan to deal with climate change.
MIC received the highest technical grade of the three bids considered, and also committed the greatest amount towards improving the airport’s infrastructure.
Before the deal can be made official it will have to be finalized and then approved by the county Board of Legislators with at least 12 out of 17 votes. There is some question, though, as to whether or not the required number of votes will be met, as both Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz and Democratic Majority Leader Catherine Borgia have spoken publicly in favor of delaying the decision until January, when County Executive-Elect George Latimer and his staff (as well as any incoming legislators) have had a chance to review the proposal for themselves.
“I believe that it is appropriate to take into consideration the opinions of County Executive-Elect George Latimer during our budget deliberations,” Kaplowitz said. “I also believe that any decision regarding the privatization of the Westchester County Airport should not be undertaken until the new administration has an opportunity to fully research the RFP respondents’ proposals.”
Latimer himself described pushing through such a large, influential deal “in the waning days of this administration” as “unconscionable.”