Stewart fulfilling Rockefeller’s prophecy four decades later

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The Air National Guard, a mainstay at Stewart, began the
transition from the huge C5A transports to the more versatile
C17s (above) in 2011

NEW YORK – When the Air Force decommissioned the Stewart Air Force Base in 1970 and the facility was placed in the hands of the New York City MTA, then Governor Nelson Rockefeller envisioned developing it as the fourth New York City metropolitan airport.
That never happened even though some 6,000 acres of land including dozens of homes were seized by the state. The original plan was to construct two parallel 10,000-foot runways for commercial jet service. Instead, over the years, the land turned into forest and under the region of Governor George Pataki, the Stewart Forest was established under the auspices of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
For the years to follow, the airport was used for an occasional charter flight, general aviation and cargo shipments.
The National Guard would later move its 105th Airlift Wing from Westchester County Airport to Stewart and under the leadership of the State Department of Transportation, on April 17, 1990, regularly scheduled commercial passenger service was born with then-Governor Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father, welcoming the service side-by-side with Archie Stewart, the airport’s benefactor who, in the 1930s, had convinced his uncle and father to turn over the land to the City of Newburgh for development of air service.
Over the years that followed under the DOT, passenger service fluctuated as the airline industry changed, but the facility was always marketed as the Hudson Valley’s airport.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey bought the remaining 93 years of a 99-year lease from National Express Corporation 10 years ago, saying the agency wanted to develop it as a reliever airport to take some of the pressure off the overcrowded Big-Three metropolitan airports.
The Port Authority sank millions into improved infrastructure and in 2017 Stewart may have finally fulfilled Rockefeller’s plan to use it as a fourth New York airport.
Last year the industry acknowledged it would place Stewart into the New York metro category and with the advent of Norwegian Air’s European in mid-2017, marketing was ramped up to promote it as a gateway to the Big Apple.