LIC airline snubs Marshall

Elected officials and employees of JetBlue flip a switch that lit the airline company's new 40-foot sign on the top of the Brewster Building in Long Island City. Photo by Christina Santucci
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As JetBlue lit its new, 40-foot sign at its headquarters at Queens Plaza last week, Borough President Helen Marshall was incensed she did not get the chance to speak at the podium before the otherwise celebratory event.

The borough president declined to make an official statement on being snubbed but was visibly upset and angry afterward.

When asked why Marshall was passed over as she stood on stage, a JetBlue spokeswoman responded in an e-mail, “We are delighted that the borough president once again showed her strong support for JetBlue and our growth in Queens and we are very appreciative of her being with us last night.”

Dan Andrews, spokesman for the borough president, said there was a miscommunication with JetBlue about the event, which had led to Marshall not being asked to speak.

“We did not realize she was going to be on the stage,” Andrews said.

Marshall had praised the company in a statement written before the ceremony.

“The lighting of this sign tonight is just the latest sign that JetBlue is going to continue to grow and prosper here in Queens, where they have been a good neighbor and provided jobs, opportunities and economic growth,” she said.

The borough president was one of many officials who were gathered at the podium the evening of Aug. 29 to flip a giant switch that turned on JetBlue’s 40-foot backlit sign on the roof of the Brewster Building, at 27-01 Queens Plaza North in Long Island City. The speakers included Mayor Michael Bloomberg, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) as well as JetBlue executives.

Marshall has been a big booster of JetBlue’s decision to relocate from Forest Hills to Long Island City.

As the sign changed from blue during the day to a lit white at night, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” began to play.

“It’s a great day for a company when it sees its name written in lights,” Bloomberg said.

JetBlue moved into the Brewster Building, once the home of the Brewster car and aviation manufacturer, in April. The long-anticipated move to Long Island City was considered a boon for the borough as the company, which employs 1,000 people in its corporate office, was considering a move to Florida. While Community Board 2 originally voted against it, JetBlue’s sign was approved through a zoning amendment the Council passed in May.

JetBlue CEO Dave Barger said the company was bringing a resurgence in aviation to New York, which was once the headquarters of companies like American Airlines, Pan Am and Trans World Airlines. He said the sign is a way for the company to mark its place in the New York City skyline.

“It’s just been terrific the support that we’ve seen to maintain our presence in Long Island City,” Barger said.

Schumer, who was instrumental in getting the airline company its first slots at John F. Kennedy International Airport, thanked the company for staying in the city.

Van Bramer said JetBlue’s presence was a crucial part of all the growth going on in the neighborhood and the district.

“We look forward to so many more good days like this as Long Island City transforms before your very eyes,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Posted 2:28 am, September 6, 2012
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