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Mobs of lawyers waiting for action
Lawyers will be making oral arguments to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday in the widest challenge yet to President Donald Trump’s immigration order; at Kennedy Airport, the lawyers who were on the front lines of that struggle last week are beginning to stand down. But that could change pending the fallout from the appeals court decision.
A loose group of volunteer attorneys had been staffing the airport 24/7 since just after the order was signed. That included some 50 or 60 at any time during the day and fewer overnight, says Camille Mackler, director of legal initiatives at the New York Immigration Coalition.
Other than debriefing detainee families, there was relatively little to do on the ground after injunctions came down from courts in Brooklyn and Washington State, Mackler says, because customs agents at Kennedy were complying. (In the frantic first hours, however, lawyers scrambled to file habeas briefs and even turn around planes.)
There are now just a few representatives during the day. Mackler says the makeshift coalition, however, is preparing for future immigration order fallout. And part of that is figuring out a better way to deal with a good problem: the flash mobs of attorneys volunteering their services. “It did create some backend logistical headaches,” Mackler says.
A steering committee was created to direct multiple efforts. As Mackler says, “This is the new normal.”
Over the tracks, but not yet through the woods
In releasing its long-anticipated study on Sunnyside Yards, New York City was clearly looking for the smoothest path to developing over the busy railroad tracks. That path is through the Amtrak-owned portion of the yard, which covers 180 acres of land and serves as a storage and maintenance location for Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The study, released Monday, indicates that 70 acres the city called the “Core Yard” would be the best spot to start. Ninety-five percent of that portion is owned and controlled by Amtrak. Decking and developing it would cost $10 billion. Focusing on that slice of the yards means city officials won’t need much state or MTA direct involvement, a benefit given the tension between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy.
Any Sunnyside Yards development effort will require coordination and planning with Amtrak, which has its own master plan to consider, and plenty of discussion with the local community, which has been averse to far smaller development efforts.
Any development on the Core Yard could include as many as 15,000 new housing units, 20 acres of open space, and new schools, retail and community facilities, the study says. The study includes a nod to one of de Blasio’s big initiatives, noting that it could include up to 4,500 affordable housing units, “helping to meet City policy goals.”
The city admits that the study is only the first step, but surely an important one in an election year.
Randi F. Marshall
Flying from LGA to JFK
LaGuardia Airport’s renovation may be a blueprint for the makeover at Kennedy Airport. As they did there, state officials hope to enlist private partners — companies with the know-how to steer the project and operate the airport, ones with the capital to contribute as much as $7 billion to the $10 billion effort.
Sources with Vantage Airport Group tell The Point that the company, which develops and manages airports across the globe, is interested in bidding for a role in the Kennedy Airport renovation. Vantage is one of the companies involved in LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the private consortium that has taken over some of LaGuardia’s operations and is tasked with redeveloping LaGuardia and operating much of the airport once the renovation is done.
If the company does bid — and wins — could Vantage do for JFK what it is doing for LaGuardia? The two airports are very different, from their sizes to the customers and airlines they serve, but there are lessons to be learned from one project that could be utilized in the other.
At the top of Vantage’s JFK list should be mitigating traffic headaches during construction. It’s something officials from the state and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will be tasked with, too — and a problem LaGuardia travelers would be more than willing to give all of them pointers on.
Randi F. Marshall