Islip planning to redevelop west side of MacArthur Airport

While one side of Islip's MacArthur Airport has a gleaming new terminal building, the other side of the airport is starting to show its age.

That's one of the reasons the town is seeking proposals to redevelop the rundown side of the runways, and it wants to start with a makeover of two acres of the 45-acre industrial western section.

The west side of the airport currently has an array of aviation-related businesses that support commercial and general aviation uses. The town doesn't want to chase out those businesses; the new initiative is aimed at improving the airport's infrastructure and encouraging new development to replace some dilapidated hangars and other aging structures.

"The west side of the airport is very old and obsolete, as far as buildings and infrastructure is concerned," Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan said. "It doesn't support our master plan for the airport. We want to reconfigure aviation services and at the same time provide a stronger rate of return for the Islip taxpayer. "

Nolan said a variety of uses will be considered, but the town is mainly trying to attract a mix of aviation maintenance and education to the airport, which will boost the local economy.

"They build these state-of-the-art facilities to train air traffic controllers," Nolan noted. "Wouldn't that be a good idea? You would have permanent staffing of the facility and at the same time you'd be bringing people in for the training that would be staying in our area hotels and eating at area restaurants.

"The economic spin-offs from an airport are immense," the supervisor added.

A 2004 study by Hofstra University estimated that the economic impact of the airport -$202 million in 2003 - would increase by 68 percent, to $340 million, by the end of this decade. And "that's with the airport the way it is," Nolan said. "We're hoping to do even better. "

With industrial parks filling up nearby, brokers are enthusiastic about the airport revitalization. John O'Hara of Corporate Realty Services in Hauppauge is confident that local developers will answer the call for the MacArthur industrial revamping.

"I think it's a great idea," O'Hara said. "It's a good location. Some companies need to be near the airport. "

Nolan said the town would entertain proposals from tenants that could quickly develop the site with new facilities. And that doesn't mean another prefab, corrugated steel Quonset hut; the supervisor said the new buildings would not only accommodate a new generation of aircraft, but also help meet energy and conservation criteria expected of modern construction.

MacArthur has come a long way since its post-World War II inception as an emergency airfield for fighter planes. A total of 114,000 square feet of space was added to the passenger service area in 2004; the concourse now has four passenger gates, a new aircraft parking apron and additional security screening areas. Four more passenger gates and a link to the general passenger terminal were opened last fall.

Nolan said the airport, even before the planned industrial revitalization, has been a key to attracting corporate investment to Islip.