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National Express Group has top bid to lease Stewart Airport.

New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Joseph H. Boardman, together with Charles A. Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation(ESD), named National Express Group PLC of Britain as the preferred bidder to lease Stewart International Airport, the first airport in the country designated to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration's Pilot Privatization Program.

Ronald S. Lauder, chairman of the State Research Council on Privatization, who made the initial recommendation in 1992 to privatize Stewart, said "Today, New York is back where it used to be: in the lead. This is the first airport privatization development package of its kind in the nation. It is vitally important for the region's economy. And it's equally important for the message it sends about the State of New York. I predict great things."

National Express brings extensive experience in privatizing state-owned airports, bus and railroad operations in Britain. However, the company did not include the 1,200-acre Stewart Properties in its winning proposal. ESD and DOT will issue a separate RFP for the 1,200 acres of Stewart Properties within the next few weeks.

As part of the transaction, 6,200 acres will be left as open space and be transferred from DOT to the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which will manage it for public recreation and as a wildlife habitat.

DEC Commissioner John P. Cahill will establish a working group of local government officials, hunters, environmentalists and other concerned citizens to develop a management plan for the property, and decide on issues like the addition of public recreational facilities.

"This selection was based on National Express' aggressive plan to operations and efficiencies at Stewart Airport, while at the same time enhancing New York State's transportation system," Commissioner Boardman said. "I am very impressed with National Express' proven track record of transferring government-owned assets from the public to the private sector and turning them into significant contributors to the local economy which preserve jobs, create new jobs, improve services and deliver growth in passenger numbers, cargo levels and profitability."

Gargano, who heads the State's privatization initiatives, said "Being the first State in the nation to privatize a commercial airport required careful consideration, evaluation and comfort with the expertise of the proposer. National Express' operations in Britain meet all the expectations we have for Stewart."

National Express' plans for Stewart are aggressive and far-reaching. Its objectives include taking advantage of the airport's unused capacity, its prime regional location with access to the larger New York metropolitan market and establishing inter-modal transportation links by bus and train to develop Stewart rapidly, while protecting and increasing its market share.

National Express' objectives for Stewart include:

* Reducing aeronautical fees;

* Introducing thousands of international passengers;

* Growing domestic passenger traffic;

* Increasing cargo traffic;

* Increasing commercial revenue;

* Reducing operating costs; and

* Improving the airport's mass transit connections.

Existing DOT staff will be provided the opportunity to remain at the airport or accept a position elsewhere at DOT.
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Apr 15, 1998
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