What’s New York doing in Atlantic City?

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has turned its sights south to the New Jersey beach resort and gambling mecca of Atlantic City for the region’s future air transport needs.

The authority approved a long-term lease to operate and maintain Atlantic City International airport from 1 July, at its meeting on 20 March. It cited the need to both expand its core airports – John F. Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia and Newark – as well as shift demand to outlying airports – Newburgh Stewart and now Atlantic City – in the region behind the move to lease the facility with the option to buy it in the future.

South Jersey Transportation Authority

Atlantic City is an odd choice. The southern New Jersey airport is about 193km (120 miles) from the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City, according to Google Maps, while Stewart is only about 104km (65 miles) from the tunnel. It serves a population that is more closely connected to Philadelphia than the hustle and bustle of New York.

For example, train service from Atlantic City goes to the Philadelphia’s 30th Street station while that from the Newburgh area goes to Hoboken Terminal across the Hudson River from midtown Manhattan. There are frequent buses between Atlantic City and New York catering to gamblers, however.

Of course the population of the New York City metropolitan region is growing and there are bound to be increasing ties between the city and southern New Jersey, which I am sure that the PANYNJ has taken note of.

Still, the authority might want work on building up the reliever airport that it already owns rather than acquiring a new one. Passenger traffic at Stewart has declined by more than half to 368,972 in 2012 since 2008, according to the authority’s records. It bought the airport in November 2007.

PANYNJ/South Jersey Transportation Authority

Susan Baer, aviation director at the authority, called Stewart a “release valve” for the region sometime in the future, during an interview with Airline Business last year. Perhaps she and her staff should work more on releasing that valve if they are in the market for more airports.

Political motivations are likely. The PANYNJ is allowed to operate one airport in New York (Stewart) and one airport in New Jersey outside its district, which is anything within 40km (25 miles) of the Statue of Liberty. New Jersey politicians may very well be driving the move to take over the Atlantic City facility. 

Who knows though, maybe the authority wants to get in early on New Jersey’s up and coming outer coastal plain viticultural region centred around Atlantic City. Anything is possible.

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