Today’s news:

Airport land swap plan slammed by Queens pol

A Queens lawmaker has condemned a proposal to swap land beneath John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports with the Port Authority as the “worst real estate deal since the island of Manhattan was sold for $24.”

State Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik (D-Flushing) has introduced legislation to block the proposal by the city to trade land under the airports to the Port Authority in exchange for land at the World Trade Center site.

Instead, Grodenchik said the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey should pay what he said was its “long overdue fair share to the city of New York for leasing the lands on which La Guardia and Kennedy airports sit.”

Grodenchik, along with City Councilman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway) expressed strong opposition to the proposed deal at a news conference on the steps of City Hall Sunday.

“For too long, the Port Authority’s payments to the city have been an insult and it’s time for a change,” said Grodenchik. “The $3.5 million the city received from the Port Authority for renting the airport lands last year boils down to approximately $624 per acre, which amounts to little more than a land scam.”

Grodenchik said if the Port Authority paid $1,000 a month per acre, it could generate $1 billion for the city, which is faced with severe budget deficits that threaten health care, education and other vital services.

“This present arrangement with the Port Authority constitutes the worst real estate deal since the island of Manhattan was sold for $24,” he said, referring to the 1624 purchase of Manhattan by Peter Minuit, director general of New Netherland, from the Canarsie Indians for the equivalent of 60 guilders, or just under $24.

He called on Gov. Pataki to force the Port Authority to do what the Flushing Democrat called “the right thing.”

Grodenchik pointed out that the 5,610 acres underneath JFK and LaGuardia amounted to 8 percent of the land in Queens.

Gianaris, whose district covers LaGuardia, agreed.

“The Port Authority’s lack of accountability has been a problem for decades,” he said. “At a time when our budgets are in desperate straits, it is time for this rip-off to end.”

“For too long, the Port Authority has been a bad neighbor to my constituents,” said Titus, whose district encompasses Kennedy. “Turning over the airports to their total control would be a disaster for the residents in the surrounding communities.”

A number of Queens officials, including Borough President Helen Marshall, have come out in opposition to the land swap proposal since Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced talks aimed at such an agreement were under way. The mayor said if the swap goes through, the city would collect tax revenues from the World Trade Center site when it is rebuilt. Under Port Authority ownership, the site is tax exempt.

“The land under our airports is very important to Queens,” Marshall told a legislative breakfast in Little Neck late last month. “The only reason the borough has been successful in fighting expansion attempts at La Guardia into Flushing Bay is because it owns the land.”

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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