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LI woos FAA with tour of MacArthur

From left, Town of Islip Supervisor Tom Croci,

From left, Town of Islip Supervisor Tom Croci, Rep. Steve Israel, Sen. Charles Schumer and FAA acting administrator Michael Huerta discuss the possibility of the new $220 million Integrated Control Facility being built at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma. (July 23, 2012) Credit: Steve Pfost

The Federal Aviation Administration's top official toured Long Island MacArthur Airport Monday but made no commitment to putting a new air traffic control facility at the Ronkonkoma airport or keeping more than 900 aviation jobs on the Island.

The tour was part of an effort by elected officials to persuade Michael Huerta, the FAA's acting administrator, and other transportation officials to build the $220 million satellite-based air traffic control facility at MacArthur or another location in Nassau or Suffolk counties.

"We've been very, very pleased with the level of interest and the level of support shown by everyone on Long Island," Huerta said in a news conference after the tour.

The FAA was in the early stages of site selection, he said. The agency plans to build the Integrated Control Facility as part of its switch to NextGen, a satellite-based navigation system to guide air traffic in the New York region. The new facility will replace the ground-based radar system that has been in use since the 1950s.

The FAA is to decide where to build the facility in May.

Plans call for employees now working at two Long Island air traffic control centers -- TRACON in Westbury and New York Center in Ronkonkoma -- to be combined in the new building. As many as 950 federal employees could be affected, many of them air traffic controllers with average annual salaries of more than $100,000.

"These are good paying jobs that Long Island cannot afford to lose," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who toured the airport with Huerta. "We are insistent that it [air traffic control] stay on Long Island."

They were joined by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) and Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, a Republican. The town operates MacArthur airport.

The FAA needs at least 60 acres for the Integrated Control Facility. The agency's fiscal 2013 budget included $95 million for the first phase of the project.

Other possible sites on Long Island include the Hub project in central Nassau County, a Suffolk County-owned parcel next to Suffolk County Community College in Selden, and other locations in Calverton and Southampton. If the facility is not located on Long Island, the positions would be moved elsewhere in the state.

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