When you think of what is synonymous with New York City, you probably think of the Statue of Liberty, the Yankees, the Empire State Building and Central Park. If that notion is extended to New York’s airports, which are famous for their volume of air cargo and passenger traffic, Kennedy International Airport is sure to be among them.

Located just 15 miles from Manhattan, the airport takes an important part in New York City’s commerce. From its opening in 1948 until December 24, 1963, when it was named for President John F. Kennedy, the airport was known as Idlewild Airport. As one of the largest air cargo and passenger hubs in the Northeast, the airport handles more than 1.3 million tons of air cargo annually.

So it’s not unusual that proposals to relocate air cargo to Stewart International Airport in New Windsor are met with mixed reception and stiff resistance. Stewart is about 60 miles north of Manhattan and was historically a military airfield until the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executed a lease in 2007. Now the state plans to move all air cargo to the airport to make JFK more ” passenger-oriented,” and the governor promises to interest industry around Stuart.

air cargo

Such a change would have significant scope and economic implications for those currently working at JFK doing air cargo. Studies show that JFK is now the 19th busiest airport in the world in terms of air cargo traffic, and the air cargo industry related to the airport directly or indirectly employs more than 50,000 people, generating more than $8.5 billion in annual sales in the Capital Region. Part of the impetus for the move was said to be the improved roads leading from Stewart to the region and the easing of trucking requirements that have affected JFK’s efficiency. This is certainly a difficult issue that will be hotly debated in the coming months.

Increased efficiency in air cargo handling is an argument in favor of moving to Stewart, but the economic implications for JFK (and New York City itself), coupled with the enormous storage resources at the existing facility, all argue against the move. Another important part of the decision is that air cargo traffic to Stuart will be handled only by cargo planes, while most of JFK’s existing tonnage is carried in the passenger cabin.

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