Tuesday, June 12, 2018




Future of Westchester County Airport under discussion

Residents fear privatizing would lead to a bigger, more intrusive airport

ARMONK – Westchester County is considering a deal to privatize its airport, the third largest in the state, in order to raise some much needed funds for the County government.  During a public forum held in Armonk, local and county officials met with concerned residents to debate the merits of the new proposal. 

County Executive George Latimer began the forum by sharing a brief power point presentation outlining the goals of the meeting and a brief history of the airport’s ownership. 

This forum was the second of three scheduled assembles aimed at fleshing out specific aspects of the proposed deal.  Monday’s forum was centered on the issue of governance, specifically whether or not the people of Westchester would be willing to enter a partnership with a private company and allow that private entity to run the airport. 

The previous administration had attempted to privatize the airport in 2016 and 2017 but was voted down by the county legislature on both occasions. 

The proposed deal would lease Westchester County Airport to a private entity that would assume responsibility for managing and maintaining the facility for the next 40 years. 

Most residents voiced extreme disapproval of the plan. One opponent of the idea described it as “an irresponsible proposition” that would “destroy quality of life (in the county) and threaten property values.”  

Many residents were concerned that privatization will inevitably lead to the expansion of the airport and thus create more pollution and noise disturbances.  Some warned that private ownership would result in a loss of negotiating power as a private company would not be nearly as accessible or accountable to the citizenry, one man observing that “we cannot govern those utilities that we have surrendered (to private industry).”

Their concerns echo difficulties the county has faced in regulating the behavior of the airport, Westchester County government at one point sued AFCO AvPORTS, the operators of the airport, in order to force them to establish a facility-wide curfew.   The issue was eventually settled out of court. 

Supporters of the deal argued that expensive and necessary updates to the facility would be far more feasible in the event of a private operator and that those renovations could create jobs and bring wealth to the county.  One former employee of the airport stressed that the deal would be “a lease not a sale” and that the county would still maintain the right to negotiate with the airport management.  

A representative of the Business Council of Westchester even suggested that privatization of the airport could improve environmental conditions of the facility, maintaining that privately funded renovations would make the airport more efficient. 

Latimer stressed that nothing about the proposal was finalized and that the forum was held simply to gage public consensus on the idea and demonstrate Westchester county government’s “commitment to transparency.”


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