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Although airlines have announced layoffs by the thousands because of the World Trade Center disaster, the plight of a Long Island City business may better illustrate the early economic impact already felt in one part of Queens.
We have heard from a car service where business plummeted by 150 percent just in the past few days, said Marie Nahikian, executive director of the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation.
This company, which has from 40 to 50 employees in Long Island City, has been in contact with us, inquiring as to what benefits they are eligible for and asking other questions because of their problem, said Nahikian, whose private agency has offices in Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.
Nahikian said the car service was hit twice by the shutdown of Wall Street and other businesses in Manhattan after the Twin Towers collapsed and the closing of Queens two airports.
She said the company picks up employees leaving late from their Manhattan offices and provides transportation for passengers to and from the airports.
Major airlines, shut down for four days after the destruction of the World Trade Center, have announced flight cutbacks of at least 20 percent and heavy layoffs with US Airways saying it would cut a quarter of its employees.
Several airline executives have demanded a federal bailout, warning that survival of the nations civil aviation system depends on it.
The kind of changes predicted by some economists would be very significant for Queens, Nahikian said. They will affect all of us in some way.
In the past, however, Queens has been able to roll with the punches due a great deal to our diversified economy, she said.
Although John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports directly provide more than 41,370 jobs, the biggest source of employment in Queens after retail work is provided by hospitals and other health-related sectors at 56,700 jobs with an average wage of $37,886, figures compiled by the agency showed.
There are also many thousands of jobs that would not exist without the airports, many of them retail.
Other leading employment sectors in the borough include construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, automobile dealers and service stations, business services, social services, and real estate, trucking and warehousing and communications.
Passenger transportation, a service provided by the Long Island City car service and many other firms, is a big employer in Queens at nearly 12,000 jobs.
Our two airports are vital to our economy, of course, Nahikian said. They provide an average wage of $45,363.
She added, Passenger travel is very big, but air freight is also a very substantial part in providing jobs and business for Queens.
Nahikian said the boroughs two airports, particularly Kennedy, had been the site of tremendous construction and improvement over the past few years, meaning billions of dollars in construction.
We have had construction bonds worth $115 million for British Airways, Korean Air $105 million, Nippon Cargo $43.5 million, Terminal Air $43.4 million, United Airlines $34.2 million, Northwest Airlines $32.8 million, the College of Aeronautics $22 million, Air Express $19 million, just to mention some, she said.
She also mentioned the AirTrain connecting JFK with a new terminal in Jamaica, which is being built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Nahikian said that of Queens more than 2 million residents, 1 million are employees and half of them work in the borough.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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