2001-06-30 / Front Page

Does BAA Stand For

Does BAA Stand For

‘Bad Attitude Airport?’

By Howard Schwach

If a "behind closed doors" deal between Mayor Giuliani and BAA, a British company that is vying for a contract to run both JFK and LaGuardia airports comes to fruition, local residents are likely to find themselves inundated with new runway construction and increased flights over their heads

That’s the contention of several local groups who have joined to fight turning the airport over to BAA.

"BAA’s mission will be to maximize its profits, not to solve the airport’s problem or ours," says Seymour Schwartz, aviation committee chairperson for the Queens Civic Conference. "It is not very comforting to hear that they are expanding their London airports despite community concerns."
In fact, BAA is having problems with the community in a number of venues, both in Europe and in the United States.

This month, planning officials in London ordered BAA to stop building what was termed as an "emergency runway" at Stansted Airfield, outside of London, because of a concern that the emergency runway was in reality a chance for the company to expand the airport without community input.

There is also community opposition to building more runways at Heathrow Airport, in the heart of London itself.

"The noise and the pollution around Heathrow is getting worse and worse because BAA dramatically increased the number of flights shortly after they took over," says John Stewart, the president of a London anti-noise group. "BAA wants to continue to expand the airport despite the consequences and the community’s opposition."

BAA manages two airports in the United States, one in Indianapolis and the other in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The public authority that owns the Harrisburg airport recently accused BAA of reneging on its contract. It says that BAA did not attract the new flights that it said it would attract and failed to market the airport. They are attempting to abrogate the 10-year contract the city signed with BAA.

In May of 2000, Mayor Giuliani announced that BAA had been selected as the winning bidder and that the city would enter into a two-phase contract with BAA. The first phase would run from the present, when the company would be paid for "monitoring" the Port Authority’s management of the two airports. In 2015, when the PA’s contract with the city ends, BAA would take over the management of both airports.

Critics claim, however, that the secret deal was done without a real bidding or review process and charge that BAA got the contract because it had hired two Giuliani insiders, Former Deputy Mayor Peter Powers and State Liberal Party chairperson, Raymond Harding, as highly-paid consultants.

They also claim that several of the things in the BAA contract are "unusual at best," according to published accounts.

One such would give the company millions in taxpayer dollars should a future mayor end the contract before it had run its term.

Community Board 10 covers Howard Beach. Betty Bratton, the chairperson of that board summed up the feelings of many locals.

"We’re getting the message that BAA will try to increase flights no matter what the people who live around the airport think," Bratton says. "That’s not going to work here in New York because our airports cannot handle it."

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