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State: Republic Airport development won’t harm environment

One of five parcels at Republic Airport in

One of five parcels at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale are slated for development. Credit: Johnny Milano

A proposed development on five parcels at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale will not harm the environment, according to a state report released last month that represents the latest hurdle cleared for the roughly $30 million project.

But the environmental assessment by the Department of Transportation did not fully allay the concerns of some in the community that the ramped-up activity the development would bring to the general aviation airport could diminish the area’s quality of life.

The applicant, Stratosphere Development, and its affiliate, Talon Air, provide fuel, repairs, charter air travel and other services at the 526-acre airport, where the companies are also based, according to Greg Zucker, an attorney representing Stratosphere.

If the transportation department, which owns the airport, and other state and federal agencies approve the project, Stratosphere would receive long-term leases on the five parcels — some 54 acres on which it would build numerous hangars and a 13,000-square-foot headquarters, and pave four new aircraft parking areas, Zucker said.

The developer would also demolish an abandoned restaurant near the main terminal, reroute a road that connects the airport to Route 110 and clear some 18 acres of woodland, the report said.

These changes would not imperil groundwater or significantly increase traffic, noise or solid waste production, according to the report. And construction would not produce emissions exceeding state and federal limits.

John Lisi, a member of a local civic coalition concerned about the airport’s future, said the report “still leaves many issues and questions to be asked.”

A lingering community fear is that the development could pave the way for regular commercial travel at Republic, a scenario that Lisi described as “a horror” over concerns it could increase noise and safety problems in the area, as well as depress surrounding property values.

That fear stems from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s remark in his 2015 State of the State address that “some of the traffic from JFK and LaGuardia” could be redirected to Republic. Frank Nocerino, chairman of the Republic Airport Commission, said the transportation department has since said commercial air travel is not planned for Republic.

A department representative said the state’s February 2016 request for proposals for the five parcels did not “contemplate regularly scheduled commercial air service nor has the developer been authorized by the state to provide such services.”

Lisi also questioned the community value of the development, as it would be exempt from property taxes, Newsday reported previously.

Zucker said the development would create around 240 permanent jobs at the airport and yield around $1 million annually in new rent revenue.

The airport currently relies on $250,000 in annual state subsidies, Newsday reported previously. The transportation department spokesman said the revenue from the project would allow the airport to move forward “without dependence on state subsidies.”

Nocerino said the environmental review will likely be discussed at the next Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the airport’s main terminal building.

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