NJ Clears Takeover of Stewart Airport

New Jersey's acting governor gave the Port Authority permission yesterday to buy Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, to ease congestion in the region's skies and airports.

The authority plans a $78.5-million, 93-year lease of the airport 60 miles north of New York City and hopes to take over operations by October. In 1999, former New York Gov. George Pataki signed a 99-year lease agreement with National Express, a private company, to operate Stewart International Airport. It was the nation's first commercial airport to be privatized.

Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey signed a bill yesterday to match New Jersey law with legislation passed in New York in 1967. In doing so, he authorized the Port Authority to buy or build two new airports - one in each state - outside the authority's district, which extends for a 25-mile radius from the Statue of Liberty.

While Port Authority officials have said they have no plans to open a new airport in New Jersey, spokesman Marc La Vorgna said the agency would work with New Jersey on any ideas it moves forward.

Codey suggested yesterday turning Atlantic City's airport into the other major hub.

"I would think, and I speak for myself and not for the governor, that site could possibly be Atlantic City," said Codey, speaking at Teterboro Airport. "I think it's a natural."

He said a major airport in New Jersey's gambling capital could provide direct, worldwide access to Atlantic City instead of forcing tourists to fly into Philadelphia, New York City or Newark.

Brendan Gilfillan, a spokesman for Gov. Jon S. Corzine, said the legislation offers a great long-term option for the state, but that another airport in New Jersey "is not something that's currently under consideration."

The immediate focus of yesterday's bill signing is Stewart International. William R. DeCota, aviation director of the Port Authority, said about 900,000 passengers are expected to pass though the airport this year, a dramatic increase from 300,000 last year. More airlines have begun service, he said, including Delta, JetBlue and AirTran Airways.

Port Authority officials have said Stewart could handle 1.5 million passengers a year, relieving congestion at LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports.

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