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Schumer Pushes For Funding Of Water, Sewer Upgrades At Stewart Airport

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was in Orange County Monday, urging a federal agency to green-light funding to upgrade water and sewage infrastructure at Stewart International Airport. He says such an overhaul will result in job creation and airport expansion projects.

The New York Democrat says he is pushing the Economic Development Administration to approve funding that would allow the Town of New Windsor, in partnership with Stewart International Airport and several employers, including FedEx, to upgrade antiquated water and sewer infrastructure.

“Now there are some major economic development opportunities afoot that would not only enable the airport to increase business but open the floodgates for increased business and revenue to flow into Orange County,” Schumer says.

He says this development vision could be darkened if Stewart’s water and sewer system is not overhauled. The system is crumbling in places and has portions that are 50-to-80 years old.

“Businesses like to get near airports, but if they can’t get water and sewer, they’re not coming,” Schumer says.

Meanwhile, when asked whether New Windsor’s water system might have any tie to recently discovered PFOS contamination in Newburgh’s main drinking water source, Schumer replies:

“Well, we’re looking at that and seeing,” says Schumer. “The Newburgh issue is a new issue and we’ll be saying some stuff on that shortly.”

Both the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Stewart Airport, and the Stewart Air National Guard Base have outfalls that channel their stormwater into a retention pond that, from water samples taken in March, showed high levels of PFOS. The pond’s water flows into streams and into Washington Lake, the drinking water supply for the City of Newburgh. Ed Harrison, general manager of Stewart Airport, says the state investigation currently under way will tell the story. As for the infrastructure grant, Schumer remains positive.

“EDA funding is a very tough funding because it’s so resourceful, but the one thing they look at is what creates the most jobs. And this is going to be a real winner on that,” Schumer says. “I’ve had good luck getting EDA grants for the Hudson Valley in the past and I’ll work as hard as I can. Is it a certainty? Absolutely not. Am I optimistic and hopeful? Yes.”

He says New Windsor’s application for $4.4 million of a total estimated project cost of $8.8 million is fair.

“For the Town of New Windsor, which is trying to avoid passing the $8.8 million price tag on to taxpayers, it’s an impossible job to do it on its own. It’s a big job,” says Schumer. “Water and sewer for a major airport, it shouldn’t be on the shoulders of just one town.”

Here’s New Windsor Town Supervisor George Greene.

"And it will be the great economic engine of the Hudson Valley and with your help, Senator, we will see this through to fruition,” says Greene.

According to the Port Authority, Stewart employs some 2,700 people in the area and contributes roughly $450 million in economic activity to the region. Stewart is poised to increase flights and the number of passengers it serves tenfold by 2025. And by mid-2017, Stewart will have turned its makeshift federal inspection area into a permanent one, allowing for the growth of international flights. Schumer says upgrading sewer and water infrastructure is the linchpin not only in retaining jobs, but also attracting new businesses and being able to develop on 2,400 acres of land, which he calls a game changer.

“First, the airport would be able to use some of the land to accommodate personal and commercial aircraft, expand its cargo space, and add 35,000 square feet of terminal space. This impacts other employers in the area. FedEx has a large distribution facility right here. They employ 300 people. They’d like to grow with increased flights, but they would need water and sewer,” says Schumer. “And, second, opening up the land with new water and sewer allows other new businesses that we don’t even know of right now to come here.”

He says the Orange County Industrial Development Agency plans to construct a 10,000-square foot office building and small business incubator on the property. Two hotels will also be built on the property, with construction expected to begin this summer.   

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