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JFK merchants prepare for 2012 summer games

While the benefits of New York City's hosting the 2012 Olympic Games are apparent for Manhattan and even western Queens, members of the JFK Chamber of Commerce wanted to know what's in it for them.

Increased passenger volumes that could translate to more business in and around Kennedy Airport was one possibility that was raised at the group's luncheon at the International Air Terminal at the airport last Thursday.

The games would generate $12 billion in regional economic growth, and Kennedy Airport could get a share of that as athletes and visitors come through the airport, said Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, who gave the keynote address at the luncheon.

New York City was named last year as the U.S. candidate to host the 2012 summer games, and the International Olympic Committee is scheduled to make its final selection in 2005, Doctoroff said.

"The things that the Olympics represent are the same things that you find in New York City every day," Doctoroff said. "Every team in the Olympic Games will be able to find a hometown crowd here."

But in order to get the maximum benefit from the games, Kennedy Airport businesses need to start planning soon, said Phillip Karber, chairman of the International Air Terminal, Terminal 4, at the airport.

"The Olympics being in New York City is important not only for the city but also for JFK and the other airports," he said. "We need to start thinking about it. We have a strategic business interest to think about the Olympics."

Redevelopment plans at Kennedy could also make the airport more appealing to international passengers coming to the games. About $10 million in projects has been planned, including the completion of the AirTrain light rail system, which could be extended to a one-seat ride to Manhattan, and improvements to roadways and terminals.

JFK's runways are also being widened to accommodate the Airbus 380 jet, which has a larger wing span than other planes and can carry 550 passengers when it begins flights in 2006, said Al Graser, the airport's general manager.

While these plans are already in the works, the Olympics will provide an impetus to make other improvements, Doctoroff said.

"The Olympics are completely unique in the life of a city," he said. "Every city that has hosted the games has used them as a catalyst to get things done."

In other parts of Queens, Olympic plans include a 4,400-unit housing complex on the East River waterfront dubbed Queens West and renovations at Flushing Meadows Corona Park that would create a white-water kayaking and a rowing venue for competitions, Doctoroff said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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