$250M open for upstate airport upgrades

A list of airports on the screen at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Thursday. Two dozen upstate airports are eligible to apply for $250 million in grants for improvement projects as the state works to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday. Courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Office

Two dozen airports can apply for $250 million in economic development grants to modernize state airports and generate economic development as the state works to rebuild after the coronavirus pandemic.

The state opened a new Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization Competition on Thursday for airports across upstate, including $230 million to accelerate improvements at commercial passenger service airports, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Airports serve as the front door to the international economy, Cuomo said, where business is ripe for taking off — a necessity as New York works to rebuild as the pandemic winds down.

“It’s a global economy — people fly,” the governor said Thursday during a briefing at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. “That airport is the first thing they see. It’s the front door on your house. It’s the welcome mat. It’s the first impression.”

An additional $20 million in grants will be allocated to the Aviation Capital Grant Program to support infrastructure and safety projects at smaller regional facilities.

Two dozen upstate public-use airports are eligible to apply, including the Adirondack Regional Airport, Albany International Airport Authority, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport, the Genesee County Airport, Hudson Valley Regional Airport, Massena International Richards Field, Niagara Falls International Airport, Ogdensburg International Airport, Plattsburgh International Airport, Saratoga County Airport, Schenectady County Airport and Watertown International Airport.

Airport officials can apply for grant funding to improve security or passenger screening, to expand or rehabilitate terminals, to construct new boarding concourse or concession areas, improvements to move passengers more safely and efficiently and new innovations in contactless technology with an increased focus on cleanliness and disinfection.

Applications are due by Sept. 15, 2021.

The state Department of Transportation will administer the program.

“There is an intrinsic link between modern and reliable transportation systems and healthy economies,” state Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said. “Through this initiative, we are transforming New York’s upstate airports into transportation hubs able to generate economic opportunity for local communities. This program embodies Gov. Cuomo’s vision to reimagine, renew and rebuild our infrastructure, ensuring New York is ready to meet the demands of the 21st century.”

Applicants will be evaluated on ability to meet eligibility criteria and will be ranked through a rigorous scoring process, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Seven airports will host state-run pop-up vaccination sites starting Monday through Friday, May 28, at airports in New York City, White Plains, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia, Westchester County, Albany International, Syracuse Hancock International, Greater Rochester International and Buffalo Niagara International airports will open for walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations on a first-come, first-serve basis to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“As summer approaches, people are taking flights,” Cuomo said. “If you’re going overseas, there are countries that are going to require you to show your vaccine ticket, that you were vaccinated to get in, but people will start to travel. On the way to get the plane, come a few minutes early, get a vaccine at the airport on the way to get a flight, and make sure wherever you’re going, that you are vaccinated.”

Lawmakers included $16.5 million for the Aviation Capital Grant Program in the 2021-22 state budget adopted last month.

Cuomo first implemented an upstate airport revitalization competition in 2016 with $200 million in grants.

The state has committed to rebuild LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports in New York City.

The revitalization of Plattsburgh International Airport was completed in October 2018, and Albany International Airport was completed in June 2020.

“Life is not about going back to where we were,” Cuomo said. “You want to go forward. You want to make progress. Our goal is to build back better than we were before.”

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