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Niagara County IDA Presents Proposal for Falls Airport

By Joyce Kryszak

Niagara Falls, NY – U.S. Senator Charles Schumer met Tuesday with local officials to discuss a new plan for revitalizing the Niagara Falls International Airport.

The IDA will present its proposal for a public-private venture to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority on Wednesday. The three tiered plan, geared toward making the airport an air cargo hub, comes in the wake of the failed deal with the Spanish owned Cintra Company. That much debated 99 year lease arrangement fell apart last month. Schumer says this proposal has what the Cintra deal lacked.

"This proposal has the best from a public and private point of view," Schumer said. "It maintains public control, but it brings in an experienced private operator. It's a 40 year contract with far more specifics than the previous deals."

The Senator says Cintra was by no means the last chance to jump start the stalled airport. According to Schumer, eleven different companies have expressed interest in managing the airport under government control. The IDA will recommend its top choice in its presentation to the NFTA. So far, political battles have grounded any progress on revitalizing the airport. But Schumer says he hopes the NFTA will back the new plan.

"I've spoken to some of the people at the NFTA," Schumer said. "There may have to be some compromises but this is a good blueprint from which to start."

Niagara Falls Mayor Irene Elia was one of about a dozen local officials who joined the senator in a show of unity for the pre-announcement. Elia agreed with Schumer, saying that it's time for the NFTA to accept a plan that will get the airport's future back on track.

"We have to be unified on a plan," she said. "The IDA plan, though I've not seen it, appears to be a good one. But if anyone else comes forward with an equally good plan, we'll look at that, too. We need this airport for economic development."

The proposal outlines three possible uses for the airport -- charter service, maintenance repair and a freight forwarding center. Officials say airport facilities could accomodate one or all three of the high demand businesses.

The proposal also allows for a faster approval process by the Federal Aviation administration. Schumer estimates that, with NFTA approval, the plan could begin generating business at the airport within six months.