(WBNG Binghamton) New York Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday called on the federal government to avoid closing the air traffic control tower at the Ithaca-Tompkins Regional Airport, which is critical to the local communities, businesses and economic growth.
Specifically, Schumer and Gillibrand wrote a letter to FAA Administrator Huerta to urge that he reverse course on plans to close the towers at Ithaca-Tompkins and Griffiss International Airport on June 15, 2013; these are the only airport contract towers set for closure in the state.
In addition to this short-term measure, the Senators wrote a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, to urge that they restore full funding for the Federal Contract Tower Program in their FY 2014 Appropriations bill, to ensure the long-term existence of these two towers, in addition to others in Upstate New York.
In particular, the Senators noted that Ithaca Tompkins is the only tower slated for closure in New York that runs full commercial service, and a loss would have a serious impact on local universities and businesses.
“Ithaca-Tompkins is the only commercial airport set for tower closure in New York, and this would have a huge impact on local universities and businesses: we simply should not allow this to happen,” said Senator Schumer. “While I can value the need to cut waste – it should not be on the backs of Upstate New York residents, businesses, universities, and the local economies. I am urging FAA Administrator Huerta to reverse course on this closure set for June 15th, and we are urging our colleagues in the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore full funding for this contract tower program next year, to avoid this disruptive and dangerous exercise in the future.”
“This is the wrong way to produce savings in our budget, and instead will just come as a major setback to our safety, and our economy,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Ithaca’s thriving universities and high-tech sectors rely on dependable commercial air service. We need to keep this airport fully up and running, and find smarter ways to cut spending.”
“In a growing, knowledge-based economy such as ours, mobility and access are absolutely critical,” said Martha Robertson, Chair, Tompkins County Legislature . “The defunding of our control tower, and the loss of air service that will likely follow, will have a devastating effect on the economy of Upstate New York. We appreciate the fact that Senators Schumer and Gillibrand recognize the real costs of closing the tower far outweigh any savings to the FAA, and are fighting to restore funds.”
Due to the sequester, the FAA must automatically cut $637 million from their operations this year. To adhere to these cuts, they are cutting approximately $50 million from the Federal Contract Tower Program. The Administration plans to withdraw funding for contractors that staff control towers at some 149 small airports. An FAA Contract Tower is a privately-run control tower that receives a federal subsidy from the FAA.
The Senators highlighted that both the Ithaca-Tompkins Airport and Griffiss International Airport are essential to their local communities.
The Ithaca-Tompkins Airport is the only tower in New York State slated to close that runs full commercial service. A reduction or loss of this service for the Ithaca-Tompkins Airport will have a significant adverse economic impact on the regional economy, where an estimated $1 billion each year is infused into the New York State economy by the 20,000 students of Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3). Together, Cornell, Ithaca College, and TC3 employ 11,500 people and generate $2.5 billion in annual economic activity. However, Tompkins County is geographically isolated; it is not near an interstate highway or passenger rail system.
As a result, the Ithaca-Tompkins airport is of significant importance. It is the primary means of mobility and access for faculty, students, researchers, entrepreneurs, customers, and investors.