2018-02-22 / Front Page

RAC updates community on proposed plans at Republic Airport

Residents continue to have concerns about the impact of those changes

By Michael Scro

The Republic Airport Commission (RAC) recently issued an update on the status of an estimated $30 million redevelopment project at Republic Airport in Farmingdale. The meeting was held Tues., Feb. 13, and drew a large crowd of concerned residents into the relatively small meeting room.

RAC Chairman Frank Nocerino reminded everyone that the project and legal happenings are still in its early stages.

 “There is no shovel going in the ground tomorrow,” Nocerino said. “There is a lot going on here.”

 The state is attempting to develop five parcels at the airport and awarded a bid to Stratosphere Development LLC, an affiliate of Talon Air Inc., an existing tenant at the airport. Stratosphere is to invest $27 million for improvements at the airport, which officials said are to aviation or aviation-related uses. Stratosphere is to build hangars for its own fleet of planes, and provide new modern facilities for smaller pilots in the community, according to the state.

But one of the primary concerns of residents is the possibility that the changes there would result in having commercial flights coming into Republic. To help alleviate those concerns, Nocerino said the commission would pursue getting a commitment in writing from all parties involved in the project that no commercial flights will be permitted, and that Republic will remain a general aviation airport that supports recreational and business flights only, even if the new changes are approved and reach fruition.

In addition, Nocerino told the group that the commission would attempt to get Airport officials to agree that if there are any intentions to service cargo flights at the airport, the Commission must first review those requests. Nocerino is currently in discussions with NYS Senators John Brooks and Phil Boyle on these topics as well, he said.

Also at the meeting a Republic Airport representative announced that a temporary permit for the use of a portion of the former 56th Fighter Group Restaurant property and a portion of Echo Ramp, which was issued to Talon Air, Inc. The temporary use will involve the reorganization of aircraft parking spots on Echo Ramp. Further details on this will be sent to airport users and Echo tenants in the near future, the statement read.

Nocerino said the permit has nothing to do with the development project. However Republic Civic Coalition for Integrity and Compliance members were not convinced.

“We were shocked to discover that the community has yet again been left out of the decision-making process regarding the future development of Republic Airport,” the civic coalition said in a statement to the Massapequa Post, Babylon Beacon and Amityville Record.  "The Coalition, which represents the civic associations surrounding Republic Airport, questions the motives of both the DOT and RAC; their combined actions have continuously failed to properly include the community in what can only be described as a secretive awards process."

Coalition members also displayed photos of five large trailers on the former restaurant property, and civic leader John Lisi said “They can be hooked up for heating and electricity long-term; we saw them and felt this was jumping the gun.” Lisi provided a background saying after the Comptroller issued a ruling on it, paperwork has not been sent yet to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which he said is required.

Lisi said that 15 points of interest have been sent to the Comptroller's office from the coalition regarding the development, which he said remain unaddressed. They included concerns about a 2015 Request for Proposals (RFP) for the development being superseded by a second RFP in 2016, transparency with the public and environmental concerns.

Nocerino acknowledged Lisi’s comments, and said the Commission would look into it.

In addition, Elliot Bloom, a partner with LI Clean Tech of Huntington, which has lodged a lawsuit against the State's RFPs process used in awarding the bid to Stratosphere, spoke at the meeting. He said a primary issue in their case is based on whether the DOT Commissioner consulted with the RAC and presented the facts to it as required by law, and has claimed that Stratosphere received favorable treatment during the 2016 procurement process and its previous permits at the airport expedited from the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) as a result of campaign contributions to the campaign of NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo, which the state denies.

 “The law requires that they not only talk to the RAC and give them information, but also consult with you and get your advice, and they’ve never done that,” Bloom told the Commission members and encouraged Nocerino to send a letter to the state on the subject.  Nocerino said that information has been conveyed to the state through correspondence, and that he plans to arrange a meeting with the DOT, which he added has been difficult to set up.

In a statement from Amy Varghese, a DOT spokesperson, she described the RFP process as "fair, equal and transparent to all applicants.”

In January, 2018, the Comptroller’s office issued a response letter on a bid protest by LI Clean Tech, saying that the company was initially designated to develop parcel E, however after some negotiations, that designation was rescinded and awarded to Stratosphere.  Their ruling on the bid protest read: “the grounds advanced by LI Clean Tech are insufficient to merit overturning the contract awards made by DOT.”

Nonetheless, in October, 2017, Sen. Brooks sent a letter to the New York State Comptroller's office asking that the 2016 RFP be rescinded, a move that was also supported by Sen. Boyle, who has reached out to the NY State Comptroller's Office.

The next meeting of the RAC will be held April 10, 7 p.m., main terminal conference room, 7150 Republic Airport. For info., call  631.752.7707 x 6109.

 

 

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