The New York State Department of Transportation has granted Stratosphere Development, an affiliate of Talon Air, a permit to temporarily expand its guest services operations for charter clients at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale.
The temporary expansion sparked concern from some civic groups. Group representatives at a Republic Airport Commission meeting Tuesday questioned whether the added office space in converted cargo containers represents “an attempt to fast track” Stratosphere’s long-term development plan for the site and four other parcels at the state-owned airport.
Ron Epstein, executive deputy DOT commissioner, said the temporary use is “totally separate” from Stratosphere’s long-term development plans for the five parcels — about 54 acres on which the company intends to build hangars and office space and pave new aircraft parking areas.
Stratosphere is using the temporary facility to receive charter passengers, Epstein said. The transportation department granted a 30-day use and occupancy permit, which can be renewed, Epstein said.
The company pays $8,015 a month for the temporary use, DOT spokesman Curtis Jetter said.
A Stratosphere spokeman did not respond to requests for comment.
Epstein said Stratosphere proposed the temporary facility, and was the sole possible user of the site, as it holds development rights for the property and the four other parcels.
The state issued a request for proposals to develop the five parcels in February 2016 and awarded the contract to Stratosphere later that year. A losing bidder, LI Clean Tech of Huntington, protested the award and in November 2017 filed a lawsuit against the state.
The New York State Comptroller’s office reviewed and then denied the protest, and approved the development contract with Stratosphere in January.
The lawsuit remains active, LI Clean Tech partner Eliot Bloom said.
The comptroller’s determination did little to mitigate opposition to the development by civic groups members, who say it will harm the area’s quality of life.
Epstein said that while Stratosphere has received development rights, its specific plans for the parcels, such as engineering and construction plans, still require approvals from several state and federal agencies.