2001-07-14 / Front Page

Mayor Still Intent On Landing BAA for JFK

Mayor Still Intent On Landing BAA for JFK

By Howard Schwach

Despite the fact that BAA, the British firm that manages airports in a number of European and American cities is under fire in a number of their venues, Mayor Giuliani seems intent on bringing them to New York City to manage both John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.

Most recently, the public authority that owns the Harrisburg (PA) International Airport cancelled a ten-year contract with BAA, citing the firm for failing to attract new business and for failing in its promise to utilize its "world class expertise" to run the airport beneficially.

According to officials, the airport had suffered a 13.5 percent drop in ridership since BAA took over the airport’s reins.

BAA quickly filed a lawsuit, claiming that the removal from Harrisburg might harm the company in its negotiations with other cities, notably New York City.

"The negotiations with several other airport owners are currently at a delicate stage and the forcible removal of BAA has a substantial likelihood of resulting in terminating those negotiations or causing the owners to reject BAA’s proposals," the lawsuit says.

Mayoral aides, however, say that the company’s problems at Harrisburg and elsewhere have not dampened the city’s desire to hire them.

Deputy Mayor Anthony Coles, who has been heading the negotiations with BAA, says that the city plans to continue negotiations to privatize the two local airports, stating that he "is not swayed by the company losing its Harrisburg contract."

"In any agreement that is negotiated with BAA, we will carefully protect the interests of New York City, the communities around the city and the interests of passengers," Coles told reporters. "I am sure that any contract we make with BAA will be better than what we have with the Port Authority."

Coles added, "Negotiations are in their final stages."

The Port Authority’s contract to manage both JFK and LaGuardia expire in 2015. Giuliani plans to give BAA a long-term contract now to "monitor" the present management until that time and then to take over the operation of the airports.

Included in the contract being negotiation with BAA is a clause that would pay the company millions in taxpayer dollars should a future mayor abrogate the contract between the city and the company, and that has angered many of the plan’s opponents.

BAA recently lost a fight to build a new runway at an airport in a London suburb because of community opposition to the added noise and pollution and it is fighting an uphill battle against community opposition in London to build new capacity at Heathrow airport in that city.

Opponents also claim that the mayor has chosen BAA without community input and without the oversight required by the City Council.

A decision on the contract with BAA is expected before the end of the summer.

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