Given the city's economic crisis, we understand why the mayor has offered to give the Port Authority ownership of the land under LaGuardia and JFK airports in exchange for the property rights at the World Trade Center and $700 million. This would in essence give the city a free hand in redeveloping lower Manhattan. But it would also put the two airports completely in the hands of the Port Authority. Even if we had tremendous confidence in the Port Authority, this would be a mistake.
Queens Assemblyman Michael Gianaris hit the nail on the head when he said, "I think it's the worst land deal since the Indians sold Manhattan. I don't understand why we would give up almost 10 percent of the county of Queens, and put the airports under the control of an authority, half of whose directors are from New Jersey. They'd have no reason to deal with us because we no longer own the land."
Keep in mind that the city has no influence over the decision-making at the Port Authority. The members of this body, which was created to address the transportation infrastructure and strengthen the economic competitiveness of the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region, are appointed by the governors of New York and New Jersey.
Clearly this mayor does not want the Port Authority involved in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. The elected officials of Queens, including the borough president, share his lack of confidence in the Port Authority.
As former Mayor Giuliani often complained, the Port Authority has never dealt fairly with the city. Although the airports generated net income of $188.4 million in 2001, last year the Port Authority paid the city only $3.5 million in rent for both airports. So why should we now trust that the Port Authority will have the city's best interests at heart? It is far easier to believe that our airports will become a cash cow supporting New Jersey projects.
There is plenty of reason to question the competence and the priorities of the Port Authority. When the Port Authority decided to build the AirTrain, it virtually ignored the Queens civic leaders who said the transport system would only work when it offered a one-seat ride connecting Manhattan to Kennedy Airport. And now that hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent on the AirTrain, officials are already looking for ways to create that one-seat ride.
The two airports are vitally important to the economy of Queens. The last thing that we want to see is the city give the Port Authority complete control over the airports.
Few people are more vulnerable than the immigrants who come to our shores desperately looking for the opportunity to begin a new life in America. Whether they got here legally or illegally, they are easy prey for the scam artists who offer to help theme secure a Green Card.
Last week the police arrested Peter Cheung, a Great Neck resident who allegedly scammed as many as 200 Chinese immigrants from his Flushing office. Police said Cheung told one woman that he had a connected in the INS who could get her a green card for $35,000. Not surprisingly, she didn't get the card and she didn't get her money back.
She is not alone. The scam artists feed on the dreams of new immigrants. Community leaders should work with the prosecutors to identify the crooked green card operations. They should also become actively involved in helping new immigrants not to become the victims of these greedy con artists.
©2003 Community News Group
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