Construction is underway on $26 million in improvements at Long...

Construction is underway on $26 million in improvements at Long Island MacArthur Airport that will include equipping the main terminal, as seen here, with a new roof. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Construction is underway on $26 million in improvements at Long Island MacArthur Airport that will include equipping the main terminal with a new roof, replacing three baggage carousels and installing a new air purification system, Town of Islip officials said Tuesday.

Separate federal and state grants will fund the projects that municipal officials plan to detail at a news conference Wednesday, when they'll also formally dedicate the airport's new $8.4 million ground transportation center.

The $26 million in funding, when calculated with other projects, brings the total invested in capital improvements at the airport to $100 million in the past seven years.

Wednesday's news conference will come just days after state Department of Environmental Conservation officials confirmed to Newsday that the airport had been listed as a state Superfund site after "significant" chemical contamination was found in groundwater and soil.

Public wells in the area are safe to use and the DEC isn't concerned currently about public exposure to the contaminants, officials said last week.

The $26 million in improvements, which will upgrade systems, equipment and décor in the main terminal, will take about a year to complete and will address issues that have needed attention for decades, according to Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter.

Around $14 million of the funding will pay for HVAC climate-control systems, the air purification system, new energy-efficient plumbing fixtures and a new backup generator, while bringing safety equipment into compliance with current building codes and replacing electrical systems such as lighting and signs, officials told Newsday.

Some of the other $12 million will go toward replacing three baggage carousels in the main terminal. Those funds also will cover a new roof for the main terminal — replacing one installed in 1984 — and pay for upgrades to doors and vestibules to more efficiently regulate temperature.

Long Island Association president and CEO Matt Cohen said in an emailed statement to Newsday on Tuesday that the planned upgrades “are necessary even as the community evaluates additional infrastructure projects that accelerate economic growth — such as connecting a proposed new North Terminal with the LIRR Ronkonkoma/MacArthur Airport station.”

Edward McNamara, president of the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce, similarly expressed hope Tuesday that the airport improvements will benefit local businesses. 

“Anything that promotes business growth and community growth is a positive thing,” he said. “Any money, especially federal money, that comes to the community is a great thing. I wish it would come more to the downtowns, naturally, the mom-and-pops, but this certainly will help local business … We need to stay competitive.”

But while applauding news of the improvements, McNamara also expressed concerns about the airport's state Superfund site designation. He said town officials have reached out in an effort to set up community meetings about the issue.

"They need to investigate it and have full transparency on all of this so we know what’s going on,” he said. “Hopefully we can clean this up and move on."

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