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JetBlue Airways spent a year discussing whether to move to Florida and has reached a decision to move, all right — but no further than Long Island City.
“New York and JetBlue are made for each other,” said Dave Barger, chief executive officer of the airline at a news conference at the Blue Room of City Hall Monday.
“After an exhaustive study to determine the best location for our corporate offices, we have decided that remaining in our hometown of New York makes the most sense for our company,” Barger said. “We carry the banner of New York’s hometown airline with pride.”
Perhaps, but $30 million in subsidies and tax breaks may have helped the city keep the airline and its many jobs.
JetBlue, founded 10 years ago last month, is once again pushing its original motto, “New York’s Hometown Airline.” Barger said his airline intended to join New York City tourism officials by helping to bring visitors to the Big Apple.
JetBlue plans to move 880 employees from its headquarters in Forest Hills along with 70 staff members from Darien, Conn., into 200,000 square feet of refurbished office space in the historic Brewster building in the Queens Plaza section of Long Island City.
The 1911 building at 27-01 Queens Plaza North was where the Brewster Aeronautic Corp. manufactured the Brewster dive bomber, a carrier-based World War II plane.
Among incentives offered by the city and state was a $3 million investment in JetBlue’s terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. JetBlue, the largest airline at JFK, said it would provide 200 new jobs over the next five years.
Borough President Helen Marshall, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who represents the district that covers the area chosen by JetBlue, all hailed the decision.
“Jet Blue has been a good neighbor of ours since its beginning and we now look forward to at least another decade of growth and progress with the help of New York’s hometown airline,” Marshall said.
Gov. David Paterson said “the relationship between New York state and JetBlue is exactly the kind of innovative economic partnership that we have sought to deliver — especially now at a time when our state needs it most.”
Van Bramer pointed out that “JetBlue’s decision will bring more than 800 jobs to our community and cement Long Island City as a growing business center of the city.”
Meeks, whose congressional district includes Kennedy, added: “As the only airline whose corporate headquarters are located in New York City I am extremely pleased that JetBlue’s headquarters will remain in our great city.”
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), who represents the area JetBlue will leave, also supported the move.
“I’m thrilled JetBlue will be staying in New York City and the great borough of Queens,” Koslowitz said. “New York and Queens have a tremendous amount to offer to such world class companies as JetBlue, and I look forward to a strong relationship between the company and the city in the years to come.”
JetBlue was founded by David Neeleman in 2000 with an inaugural flight from JFK to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and quickly followed up with flights to cities in western New York state. The airline now serves 60 destinations in 20 states as well as Puerto Rico and the Caribbean and Latin America.
Neeleman was replaced as CEO after a series of weather-related problems in the winter of 2009. Neeleman, born in Sao Paulo and fluent in Portuguese, is working on establishing a low-cost airline in Brazil, where the economy is booming.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 718-260-4536.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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