With no apparent public disclosure or debate, a $2.5 million grant proposal to help convert the Columbia County Airport into “the Upper Hudson Valley Regional Airport” was made to New York State in July 2012, this site has learned.
The application for Empire State Development funding, signed under penalty of perjury by County Commissioner of Planning & Economic Development Kenneth J. Flood, suggests that the taxpayer-supported airport in Ghent could expand to soak up “more intense” traffic from other “congested” airports in the area.
County officials have been denying any intent to expand, in the face of speculation prompted by recent moves to use eminent domain to acquire more land adjoining the airport, supposedly only to satisfy safety concerns.
But their own 2012 application discloses very different long-term airport goals. Flood writes to the State:
[T]he required infrastructure needs to be extended and capacity increased for more intense airport operations and development of nearly 70 county owned acres of land for aviation and non-aviation companies.
Flood then parenthetically drops a bombshell: The reënvisioning of the County Airport as the “Upper Hudson Valley Regional Airport,” which would attract “substantial” added air traffic now handled by other area facilities:
The future development at the Columbia County Airport (proposed AKA Upper Hudson Valley Regional Airport) that will occur as a result of the improved infrastructure will allow this facilty to absorb a substantial amount of corporate and smaller freight aircraft operations that are causing congestion at other airports in the region.
The funding, Flood continues, would “substantially increase the total land area within the airport perimeter that would be shovel ready for aviation related businesses,” and
would allow for the development of approximately 70 acres of county owned land within the airport perimeter with a prioritization for the attraction of corporate aviation businesses... in order to service Richmor’s Corporate HQ, expand airport operations (construction of new hangars, new terminal, pilot lounge), develop 70 acres of county owned land for high tech aviation businesses and develop the area as a cornerstone of the southern Capital Region...
At the time the grant proposal was submitted, it was described publicly as an attempt to upgrade failing water and sewer services shared by the Commerce Park and Airport. The minutes of the County Economic Development Committee similarly described the application as just a “Water and Sewer Extension to County Airport.”
Likewise, the very end of a July 2012 article in the Register-Star said blandly that “Flood has applied for $2.5 million in funding to upgrade the sewage treatment plan[t] and connect it to the county airport as part of a $3.5 million project.”
In a strained attempt to tie this new “Regional Airport” into existing billion-dollar State investments in nanotech in Malta and the general Albany area, Flood argues:
The County as a whole, but more specifically this Commerce Center location is in a unique position to attract and capture key suppliers that would support the growing nanoscience center located less than 30 miles away in the Capital District.
That such business travelers would land an extra 30 miles south to Columbia County, rather than using the much closer, more convenient and advanced Albany, Schenectady or Saratoga Springs airports, seems specious. Those airports don’t appear to be maxed out as far as their capacity to serve demand.) The notion seems as farfetched as the County’s hopes of someday attracting a major package distribution hub for a company like DHL—an idea reported by Meadowgreens owner Carmen Nero during his speech at the Supervisors’ recent non-information session.
Flood soldiers on, promising the State “the construction of at least one 8-Bay T-Hangar and one corporate hangar in the immediate five year period,” plus “the identification of non-aviation development areas that can be used by the County to generate revenues for the Airport.”
Touting “the success” of the Commerce Park—the source of intense controversy over the seizing of farmland at its inception, and which few local residents seem to view as successful—Flood again attempts to make the case that this
the 70+ acres of land within the perimeter of the adjacent County Airport offered a unique opportunity to attract aviation related businesses that were not able to access the larger airports within the region.
Flood briefly alludes to an unnamed neighboring property owner who could benefit from the funding:
[T]he service area will be expanded to include additional adjacent county and privately owned lands that are presently zoned commercial/industrial. In fact one nearby property owner needs to connect to the existing facilities in order to progress a planned commercial/light industrial development project.
(Who that neighbor might be is unspecified. Again in the Reg-Star in 2012, Flood alluded to the possible siting of a slaughterhouse at the Commerce Park, though this hasn’t come to pass. Another theory floated by a Ghent resident is that Ginsberg’s Foods has been contemplating the construction of a vast new facility on the north side of Route 66 near Whittier, adjoining the Commerce Park and airport. Another source described the project as “the size of Shea Stadium.” Yet another source indicates that David Ginsberg headed up the search committee which originally hired Flood as economic development czar.)
In response to an application question about whether “the proposed project [will] involve participation in community based planning and collaboration?,” Flood responded:
The project involves participation from public and private entities, some of whom work directly with traditionally underserved populations.
[NOTE: A copy of the NYS Consolidated Funding Application #17918, orginally obtained by Ghent resident Patti Matheney, can be downloaded here as a PDF.]