Good Morning
Good Morning

State increases Republic Airport area real estate, business development efforts

Leslie Whatley, executive vice president, START-UP NY speaks

Leslie Whatley, executive vice president, START-UP NY speaks at a meeting of the Long Island Association in Melville on Sept. 16, 2015. Credit: Jeremy Bales

New York State is stepping up efforts aimed at enticing real estate developers to pitch ideas for 54 acres of unused land at or near Republic Airport in East Farmingdale.

Possible ideas floated at a meeting at the Canon USA headquarters in Melville last week included transit-oriented development and aviation-related businesses.

The state has been trying to spur economic activity at Republic, which is state-owned and -operated, for the past year.

Officials are now taking a two-pronged approach: seeking one group to take over airport operations, and asking developers to build on the unused property, part of 526 total acres at the general aviation airport.

"We think the operation of the airport and the development of the land wants to be two different things instead of one," said Leslie Whatley, executive vice president of Start-Up NY, a state program that offers tax breaks to companies that work with local universities and create new jobs.

The six parcels at Republic could be eligible to pay no state and local taxes for the first 10 years of a lease.

At the meeting, state officials rebutted the idea that commercial flights could come to Republic, despite Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's musings earlier this year that it could be used as a reliever airport for Kennedy and LaGuardia.

Transportation Department officials said they're evaluating two proposals for operating the airport.

There is no formal solicitation process in place for developing the land, a state spokesman said, but Whatley and Empire State Development president Howard Zemsky hope developers will come forward with ideas -- and said some already have.

"This airport can benefit the economy of the whole community," Zemsky told the group. "We know there are parcels that are ideally suited for additional private aviation purposes, there are parcels ideally suited for commercial purposes and there are parcels that are potentially ideally suited for transit-oriented development."

Daniel Gazzola of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, a Manhattan-based commercial real estate firm, told developers that the opportunity at Republic is "gold."

Gazzola, whose company is marketing the parcels, said the 54 acres are in the middle of Long Island, the commercial market is good and there's high occupancy in the industrial sector.

But he cautioned: "You have to find someone who has the patience to build. It's not going to happen overnight. You're probably looking at a couple-year process to get up and running."

There were also concerns from developers about possible environmental contamination at one of the sites, a 12-acre parcel north of Conklin Street that abuts Long Island Rail Road tracks.

"We're in the process of reassessing what's actually there," Whatley said.

Future development could be aviation-related or not, Whatley and Zemsky said, but the plan isn't to expand retail, which already exists around the airport.

More news