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Pataki urges Americans to keep flying to Queens

Queens’ economy, which has been bruised by the decline in air travel and the loss of nearly 4,000 aviation-related jobs in Queens, got a boost last week when Gov. George Pataki announced the creation of the “Keep America Flying” campaign.

Pataki was joined Borough President Claire Shulman, Queens politicians and transportation industry executives at John F. Kennedy International Airport Dec. 26 to kick off the public service campaign created to help alleviate people’s fears of flying and re-establish the confidence in the airline industry.

“The ‘Keep America Flying’ campaign will help to restore our pride in the finest airline system in the world,” Pataki said, “while insuring that the industry will continue to create jobs and opportunities for the people of Queens and the surrounding area.

“From the newsstands and the restaurants, to the baggage and ticket personnel, the red caps who greet us at the curb, we want everybody back on the job at JFK and LaGuardia to welcome visitors to New York in 2002,” he said. “Now is the time to put the power of safe, secure and convenient airline travel back to work for all New Yorkers and all Americans.”

He said the government and industry have to continue to reassess the security on a continual basis and examine all of the measures that give people the confidence to fly. But, Pataki said, people have to know that air travel is safe.

“Keep America Flying” was the response of a group of non-profit companies, public officials and industry associations to support and rebuild the U.S. aviation industry, which was hit hard by the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

According to the organization, more than 100,000 jobs have been lost in the aviation industry, which employed more than 2 million people around the United States and puts more than $5 billion into the country’s economy.

The hope is the “Keep America Flying” advertising campaign will persuade Americans to get back into planes and flying again.

“The airline industry is an integral part of the America’s economic fabric,” said William DeCota, director of aviation and chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports. “This innovative and creative effort will help restore the confidence we should have in flying.”

He said it is not just the airlines that have been affected by the slowdown of the industry, but service providers, retailers and the suppliers to the airline industry, which are vital to the economy.

State Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Forest Hills), state Sen. Ada Smith (D-Jamaica) and state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) also attended the event.

“The aviation industry is one of the most important industries, not only in the city and state but in the borough of Queens,” said Shulman, who pointed out some 4,000 aviation-related jobs have been lost in the county since Sept. 11.

“Everybody knows the economy of the city and state is closely aligned to the aviation industry,” she said.

She said the aviation industry has a major role in the health of the city’s economy and noted that before the attacks there were 50,000 jobs at Kennedy and LaGuardia. Aside from helping the families of the victims, which is first and foremost, people need to help the economy by flying, she said.

“If you plan to visit either for business or pleasure, do it because it is important for our folks and their jobs,” she said. “But also think of it as the patriotic thing to do.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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