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Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed Republic Airport expansion would only add to noise, traffic, taxes, local leaders say

The control tower at Republic Airport in East

The control tower at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale is shown Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely

A plan by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to develop East Farmingdale's Republic Airport by privatizing management, creating a tax-free zone for businesses and adding commercial air service is facing criticism from civic and elected leaders from surrounding communities.

Critics say an expanded Republic would bring more noise to those living under flight paths and more traffic to Route 110, the busy north-south artery.

And creating a tax-free zone to lure businesses to six underutilized airport land parcels would add to the tax burden of local property owners, these critics say.

"They never consulted with anybody," said Frank Nocerino, chairman of the Republic Airport Commission, a volunteer board charged with advising the state on airport administration. He was appointed to the board in 1995 during Gov. George Pataki's administration. He said communities around the airport are opposed to its expansion.

In interviews this week, civic leaders from Lindenhurst, East Farmingdale, Huntington, Plainview and Dix Hills criticized the plan.

State Sens. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) and Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) both said that privatization of the management and the addition of aircraft traffic would be "detrimental" to the region, as they put it in a joint letter to Nocerino mailed earlier this month.

Babylon Town spokesman Kevin Bonner said the town has no official position on the plan but wrote in an email that the "Town has indicated to New York State its strong commitment to involving all community stakeholders in any decisions."

Local leaders and representatives from the governor's office are expected to attend a public meeting at 7 Thursday night at the Melville Fire Department, 531 Sweet Hollow Rd.

In his January State of the State Address, Cuomo said Republic and upstate Stewart International Airport could absorb some of the traffic now flying into Kennedy Airport and LaGuardia. In a February visit to Farmingdale State College, he said he envisions Republic as a destination for direct commercial flights to Long Island.

The New York State Department of Transportation, which owns the airport, is accepting proposals from prospective airport managers until Monday, with a tentative start date of July 1. Specific deadlines beyond that have not been set.

Under private management, said Beth DeFalco, a spokeswoman for the governor, the airport could be a powerful driver for the regional economy.

"The airport is an underutilized asset and it needs to be managed by professionals," she said. "The DOT is in the business of managing roads and bridges and shouldn't be running an airport."

Under the state's plan, which calls for a private firm to manage the airport under contract for the next 40 years or longer, the state would cover any operational losses for the first decade but take any profits. Revenue would be shared with the state for the last 30 years of the contract.

The right to develop the six-state owned parcels in the tax-free zone comprising 50 acres of land on or near the airport is a powerful inducement to potential managers, DeFalco said.

"The governor is looking to reimagine our entire regional airport system," DeFalco wrote in an email, adding that "Any changes to cargo and commercial flights at Republic Airport require a more detailed analysis and additional conversations with federal and local partners."

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