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START-UP At Stewart Is Met With Different Views

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The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey
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A proposal to make Stewart International Airport in Orange County a tax-free zone, included in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address earlier this month, is drawing mixed reviews. 

When speaking about infrastructure during his January 21 State of the State address, Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed plans for two regional airports.

“We want to make Republic and Stewart – Republic is on Long Island, Stewart is in the mid-Hudson – we want to make them tax-free zones so we can bring businesses to Republic and Stewart Airport and take some of the traffic from JFK and LaGuardia and move it out to the Long Island and Stewart Airport,” said Cuomo.

It was not the first time Cuomo talked about revitalizing New Windsor-based Stewart International Airport. In October, Cuomo announced master plan design competitions for LaGuardia and JFK International Airports in New York City along with different kinds of revitalization plans for Republic and Stewart Airports.

“Stewart Airport we believe we could develop as a cargo distribution center, and take some of that volume from JFK, thereby freeing up JFK, and moving the cargo distribution to Stewart, which has more road access and is less heavily trafficked,” says Cuomo.

Cuomo had delivered that announcement standing alongside Vice President Joe Biden.

“It’s sitting there. It has gigantic opportunities,” says Biden.

FedEx and UPS use Stewart. And the U.S. Postal Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture have facilities there. Areas surrounding Stewart Airport would be included in START-UP New York, the state’s tool to spur economic development by offering qualified businesses that set up in the zone tax-free status for 10 years. Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Kingston, whose district includes communities to the north of Stewart, is not yet sold on the idea.

“I don’t know that it’s in the long-term best interest of the economic development of the Hudson Valley to be considered the sort of warehouse district of the metropolitan area,” says Cahill.

He says he hopes to revisit ways to expand passenger service at Stewart, which has two runways and seven gates. Cahill says he is concerned about developing cargo capacity.

“Cargo centers operate 24 hours a day and overflights in the surrounding communities, one of which I represent, become a tremendous issues as people are trying to rest for the night,” Cahill says.

He says he is not against the plan, but that it warrants further study. Such is not the case for Republican Assemblyman Kieran Lalor.

“I voted against START-UP NY,” says Lalor.

He says that instead of expanding the tax-free program from college campuses, it’s time to get rid of special tax-break programs and adopt across-the-board tax relief.

“Let’s fix the macro economy in our state by lowering taxes, easing the regulatory burden,” Lalor says.

Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus welcomes the opportunity to attract more economic development to the region and integrate Stewart Airport more fully into the state’s transportation infrastructure by transforming its property into a tax-free zone. Pro-business groups in the county feel the same. They had hoped to see revitalization of Stewart had one of state’s casino licenses been awarded to an Orange County contender, especially one of the two proposals nearest to Stewart. Democratic Assemblyman Frank Skartados says he looks forward to learning more about the Stewart Airport tax-free zone proposal. The airport says it has about 2,700 employees.

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