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State Sen. John Brooks: Republic Airport proposal process flawed

Map shows where request for proposals went out

Map shows where request for proposals went out for five large tracts at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. Credit: Empire State Development

Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) has asked the New York State comptroller to retract a controversial request for proposals to develop five parcels at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale, citing insufficient competitive bidding and community input.

“I believe it is in the best interest of the State to rescind the RFP” and consider issuing a new one, Brooks wrote Tuesday in the letter to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The request joins a chorus of concerns voiced by local civic groups, the Republic Airport Commission and Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) over how the development contract was awarded in February to Stratosphere Development, an affiliate of Talon Air, both of which are based at Republic.

Joseph Morrissey, a state Transportation Department spokesman, disputed Brooks’ characterization of the RFP. “This process was fair, equal and transparent,” he said.

Greg Zucker, Stratosphere’s attorney, said the RFP was well publicized before Talon was selected, citing meetings, published announcements and media coverage drawing attention to it.

The more than $30 million proposal involves building numerous hangars and a 13,000-square-foot headquarters, plus paving four aircraft parking areas, according to Zucker.

The development would create 240 permanent jobs at the airport, yield $1 million annually in new rent revenue and enable the facility to operate without the state subsidies it receives now, Zucker and state officials have said previously.

Brooks said Wednesday he does not object to Talon’s proposal, only how the RFP was conducted.

In May, Boyle sent a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, asking that he “withdraw the offer for the award of the RFP” due to similar concerns. A Boyle spokeswoman said Wednesday he has not received a response. Cuomo’s office referred questions to the transportation department.

A July environmental assessment by the transportation department found the proposal would not harm the environment or significantly increase noise or traffic. The proposal still requires approval from various state and federal agencies, officials said.

But the review did not allay local concerns over the impact of the development on the community’s character and whether it would lead to regular commercial air travel at Republic.

Frank Nocerino, chairman of the Republic Airport Commission, an advisory body, read Brooks’ letter aloud at a commission meeting Tuesday to applause from the around 20 audience members in attendance.

“Finally the community and commission are being heard,” said Alissa Sue Taff, head of the Civic Association of Sweet Hollow. “It’s about time.”

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