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Aging control tower at Long Island MacArthur Airport soon to be torn down

The air traffic control tower at Long Island

The air traffic control tower at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma on May 18, 2011. The tower will be torn down in October 2015 after a yearslong battle with a federal agency over who will foot the nearly $1 million price tag. Credit: Ed Betz

Long Island MacArthur Airport's defunct control tower -- a 107-foot tall relic of the 1960s that watched over its last plane four years ago -- will be torn down next month after a yearslong battle with a federal agency over who will foot the nearly $1 million price tag.

Now, with the Federal Aviation Administration's promise to back 90 percent of costs, the demolition plans are underway, airport Commissioner Robert Schaefer said.

"The roof is leaking; it's not in good shape," Schaefer said of the old tower. "You can't even walk in there, you don't even want to go in there. There's mold, mildew. It just has to come down."

Islip Town built a new, 159-foot, $20 million control tower in 2010, with operations commissioned in 2011. The taller structure -- with 50 feet on the old one -- gives air traffic controllers better visibility of runways and taxiways, officials said at the time.

The demolition should take about 90 days, weather permitting, Schaefer said.

First, asbestos abatement needs to be done, then the top part, called the cab, will be removed in one piece by a crane, Schaefer said. The rest of the tower, composed of metal, steel and iron, will be cut down in pieces.

At an Islip Town Board meeting last week, council members unanimously approved two resolutions for this project, including one to enter into a contract with MPCC Corp. of New Rochelle -- the lowest responsible bidder -- for $787,773 to be the general contractor of the project. Only one other bid was submitted for this work, at $888,000, according to the resolution. The board also approved a resolution to enter into a contract with JKL Engineering of Ellicott City, Maryland, in the amount of $179,918, for construction management and inspection services for the demolition.

MPCC did not respond to a request for comment. An engineer at JKL involved in the project referred all questions to town airport officials. Islip Town owns the facility.

New York State will pay half of the final 10 percent, according to the resolutions, and the town will request the remaining 5 percent to be paid by passenger facility charges.

Schaefer said the structure isn't in danger of collapse but, because it no longer functions as a control tower, town officials want the real estate to build a new airport rescue and fire facility in its place.

The design for the new emergency services building is still being drawn up, so a construction timeline has not yet been set.

About 20 town employees, who are all cross-trained as firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, work on the airport grounds responding to calls, from aviation issues on the tarmac to a sick passenger in the terminal.

"Our emergency trucks are aging and we have to replace them, but the current bays are not wide enough to fit the new trucks -- the new trucks are much wider than the ones we have now," Schaefer said. "Technology is getting better, and we don't want to wait until the last second. We want to be well-equipped."

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