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Pataki offers city $500,000 to pay airports back rents

Gov. George Pataki has offered New York $500,000 in back rent the city has long sought for use of John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The money, which would greatly help the city in its hour of financial distress in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the economic slowdown, has been at the center of a long dispute with the Port Authority.

New York City has demanded more than the nominal rent long paid by the two-state agency that operates both airports.

Pataki revealed the offer when he spoke to the Association For a Better New York, saying the state was ready to pay the city “more than a half billion dollars in additional lease payments.”

In his first term, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani filed suit against the Port Authority for back rent and demanded a rent increase. It was a time when Giuliani campaigned publicly against the Port Authority, which he wanted to oust from the airports and replace with a private British airport management company.

The Port Authority’s lease with the city expires in 2015.

Half of the Port Authority’s board of directors are appointed by the governor.

Both the governor’s and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office said they were engaged in pursuing a resolution of the matter.

Political observers said such negotiations might well include a move by the city to trade the real estate occupied by both airports for the Port Authority land beneath the former World Trade Center.

In his budget address Tuesday, Bloomberg said he was counting on $600 million in back rent on the airports rather than than the $500 million proposed by Pataki to help close the city’s budget gap.

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