ASTORINO: Okay, everybody. Thank you first of all for being with me tonight. I’m Rob Astorino, and I appreciate taking some time, and, sort of what we’ll do here is I’ll just give you a little briefing on the airport proposal, and that’s what it is so far, a proposal. I’ll get you caught up on where it’s at in the process. I’ll give you some what I think is the facts as compared with what you’re hearing, potentially, out there, with a lot of misinformation. And so, I, wanna get the facts on the table, and then be able to answer your questions, and if you have a question, you just hit zero, and then somebody will take your information and then we’ll hopefully get to it, um, in the order of people doing it. So, we’ll be here for about a half hour, give or take, and we’ll try to get as many questions in as possible. So, what is this proposal? Okay, obviously we have a county airport, HPN is the letters that you’re probably used to seeing on your tickets. But, Westchester County Airport became a county airport in 1945 when the Federal government turned it over. At that time, Westchester County decided to have a private manager run the airport – daily operations – for the county. So really since World War II, someone has been running the airport for the county, a company. And we’ve got a company today, AvPorts, doing a good job. But I’ll tell you why we’re looking at going into this process. So, the first thing is, it is a valuable asset, the county airport. Most of you probably have used it one point or another, flying in or out, whether it’s JetBlue or American to Florida or wherever. So it’s a nice airport, it’s a convenient airport, and it’s one that’s very important to the economy here, and very important to, to Westchester.
We decided, when we became aware of this, we decided to look into going into a Federal Aviation Administration program. This was authorized by Congress in 1996, signed by President Clniton, which allows up to 10 airports nationwide, that are small or medium size airports. Westchester County Airport fits into that. You can go into this public private partnership, that the government will allow – federal government will allow – and the reason why we’re looking at doing that is because under federal law, all the money that comes into an airport has to stay at the airport. Meaning all the revenue generated there, um, everything has to stay at the airport. Cannot be used for general purposes like, um, daycare, or arts, or our public parks, or social services, or – all those kind of things that we would tax to use.
Now we’ve been able to hold the lines on taxes for the last 7 years. The county tax levy has not increased in those 7 years. And what we need to do, is we need to find revenue, county assets – revenue – that we can use so we don’t have to keep going to taxpayers. And I think that’s an important part of this. So, what is it and what is it not, this program that we look to going into?
It is a public-private partnership. We have, with the Board of Legislators, embarked on this process in a very bipartisan way. We have three proposals that the county has received so far from very good companies that have national and international experience in running day-to-day operations of an airport. Ultimately, if we go into this partnership, the day-to-day would still be a private company, just like it is today. The difference would be, though, that Westchester County taxpayers would receive a payment from this company that wants to do business here and run the airport, and a profit sharing agreement. So we would have a long-term agreement, long-term lease, that would have the benefits for taxpayers of being able to hold the line on taxes, having a better airport, but not a bigger airport. So you take the airport that is there today, you shift it to a different company than we have right now under this potential, uh, this possibility with the FAA, and we can reap the benefits of this.
Now, I want to go through a couple of these things here, because, they’re critically important. I’ll start with this: I’ll start with a very personal thing. I live in the flight path of this airport, okay? I live in the town of Mt. Pleasant, and so the air – the planes that are being routed by the FAA, or, by the control tower to go west, is flying over my house. So I understand what people are saying in areas close to the airport, that they don’t want a bigger airport, they don’t want a louder airport, and I agree with that. And so I want to make sure that we have a better airport, and it can be better, for everyone. It can be better for taxpayers, it can be better for the flying public, and that does not mean something has to give elsewhere, like environmental protections, and it’s just the opposite. So let’s get into a couple of those things and then I’m gonna take your questions.
The – what’s critically important is that we will have a lease with whatever company that we’re gonna do business with. This lease is being worked on by a professional, by the county’s law department. It is gonna be looked at, and ultimately approved or not by the county Board of Legislators, 17 of them, uh, as well as the administration. There will be no expansion at the airport. Now I know there’s this whole thing, that it’s gonna be LaGuardia North. It can’t be LaGuardia North, nor will it, nor should it be LaGuardia North. It’s our own HPN and that’s the way it has to stay. The vast differences between LaGuardia, let’s say, and Westchester County Airport – first of all, our runways, we have two runways. They are not expanding; they can’t, they won’t, it’s already in the lease. They will not get longer. Second, and we – by the way, we cannot build new, uh, runways.
Second, the environmental protections that are there now will continue to be there. Why is this important? Because we have Rye Lake, we have Kensico Reservoir, we have Blind Brook, and of course we all live here. None of us want anything bad to happen at the airport environmentally, and so the protections will stay the same, which are very stringent, or get even better, and that’s the goal here.
Third – the number of gates at LaGuardia, there are 72 gates. And Westchester County Airport, there are – I’ll say 6, it’s really 4, plus 2, and I’ll explain. Four are what’s called bridged, so you’re in the terminal, and you walk on the bridged gate onto your plane. There are then two others where you walk outside, and you’ve probably experienced this at some point, where you walk outside and you go on the plane. So let’s say for argument’s sake, there are 6 gates. That s not expanding. That’s already been written in that it will remain 6 gates, which really limits the number of planes that can come back and forth.
Another biggie – the passenger cap which we have in place, which is on a daily total, about eleven and a half thousand, that stays the same. It’s already written in that it cannot change. The half hour limit of 240 stays the same. So these limits, these protections are there to make sure, to make certain, that it does not become a LaGuardia North. That is very very important because there’s terrible rumors, a lot of misinformation, and quite frankly, a lot of political lies going out that this is going to be LaGuardia which will turn into JFK which will turn into Heathrow. I mean, come on, give me a break, we all live here, and we do not want this massive airport next to us. What we do want is a well run airport. We want a much better airport, and we want the traveling public to be able to use it, but we also want to keep it the way it is with regards to the size. So, those are the big things.
The county is not selling the airport. The county will continue to own the airport. This will be a lease. The county will still have oversight of the airport. The county will still set policy at the airport. The county will still have say over construction projects at the airport, all of which we do now. So why would somebody want to do this deal? Why would a private company want to come in? Because, quite frankly, yeah, they’re going to invest in this airport because they do want a return on their investment and they see over the course of time that that airport can be profitable, and by being profitable they’re going to have to invest in the airport, that’s a good thing because that means you and I don’t have to do that. And, for us, it means that we can use this revenue to hold the line on taxes. Which quite frankly, too many people in this county can’t afford and so, instead of going to the taxpayers saying “we need more more more,” this is a way of using our asset and using that money for everyone’s benefit.
So those are some of the highlights. There are very strict protections that are gonna be written into the lease. This is not being snuck through. We’ve had discussions on this now for several years. We’ve had discussions, public, the Board of Legislators, ultimately, will have to give a yes or no. And they’re working on this as part of a task force – that is, the County Executive’s office as well as three members of the legislature – two Democrats and one Republican, so they’re looking at this upside down and inside out. So the public will always be part of this process through their elected officials, and ultimately through public hearings when the time is right. So right now, the time frame for this is, we have three proposals from three major companies. The task force is looking at it. They then will, uh, give rankings for this. They then will turn it over to me. I will look at it. Ultimately, I will make a recommendation to the Board of Legislators. They then will look at it and have to decide yes or no, whether we go into this proposal, reap all the benefits of it, or we don’t. And that’s really the process in a nutshell.
So, um, it’s an exciting opportunity. It’s really what’s happening around the country and around the world now, with these kind of assets, whether it’s an airport or other public private partnerships. It is a way to invest in our infrastructure without the taxpayers having to pony this up. But yet, ultimately, your elected officials, including me and your legislators, still have control over the airport.
So with that, that’s a quick summary. Why don’t we, um, let’s start taking some questions. Alright, let’s see. Karen, in Purchase. Hi Karen, you’re right near the airport.
KAREN [11:22]: Hi there. Yes. Thanks. Um, so, my question is [unintelligible] about how, um, how the there’s changes between what happens at the, what happens right now with the current contract with AvPorts, the structure of it is a fiduciary agreement, arrangement where AvPorts can be fired with 6 months notice for any reason, but, your proposal is a forty year lease. So the county’s rights will be limited by that lease, it’s going to be different from a fiduciary. Can you comment on how the county will maintain control and oversight of the airport given that there’s a change from a fiduciary to a commercial arrangement, and whether the county can break the lease without proving a violation and hauling it all the way into court. I know you’ve fought a lot of court battles over many of your policies and changes, um, and so, how is that – how is this lease gonna be, um, different? I mean, I can’t imagine that a commercial [cut off]
Let me answer your question there. So, first of all, AvPorts, they’re there right now. AvPorts is working under a contract with the county to manage the airport. As I said before, they do a good job, they’ve been there quite a while. They get paid a million dollars a year from the county to run the day to day operations. We, the taxpayers of the county actually, through the airport fund, will pay all of their expenses. So, all their employees that AvPorts assigns to the airport is paid for by the county and all their benefits. So without a profit motive, in essence, AvPorts is overseeing the airport, and they do a good job. But that’s it. They need to oversee the airport. If you bring a new company in, and I’ll get to your – your question in a second, if you bring a new company in, they need to do a good job. Need to do a good job. For the traveling public, and, ultimately, the landlord and their overseer, and that is the county. And so, in answer to your question, the county through the lease that it will sign has standards that need to be met, has protections that can’t be defaulted on or violated. There are oversight by the county in policies that are set. And so if the company defaults on these things, they can – the lease can be broken. I mean, that, that is kind of standard in a lot of different ways. They need protections in the lease because they want to get into a long term deal and you can’t fault them for that. I mean, they’re not in this for, uh charity, they’re in this to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way, so long as the county is still overseeing it which we will. So there are protections in this lease, um, that the county has as the overseer, as the owner of the property, as the landlord, to, um, keep their feet to the fire and to make sure they meet these expectations. There’s also by the way, federal laws, state laws, county laws that they have to abide by. So I hope that answers your question.
Uh, Christopher in Bedford Hills. Hi Christopher. Christopher? Christopher in Bedford Hills, you there?
CHRISTOPHER [14:58]: I am here.
ASTORINO: Alright, what’s your question, sir?
CHRISTOPHER: Why is it a forty-year lease?
ASTORINO: Why is it a forty-year lease, okay. Well the proposal is a forty-year lease because that is the amount of time that the private companies feel with their expenses and their investments that they’re going to need over that period of time to get a return on their investment. That always happens, you know, in private equity, in anything in that kind of world, they need to make sure that at a period of time, they’re going to see not just expenses but actual revenues. Uh, it wouldn’t work, a deal of this magnitude, for ten years let’s say, because they’re going to do very upfront investments and they over time have to reap that back, and so, you know – you could have, uh, 99 year leases, which is not uncommon in this kind of world for these kind of projects. So this is a lot shorter than what you’ve seen maybe in other parts of the country, other parts of the world. It really comes down to negotiating what the length that the county feels is necessary, along with the investors, and that’s really what they are, they’re investing in the county.
ASTORINO [16:20]: Okay, what else, let’s go to… Jonathan in Purchase? No. No he’s not there. Tom, in Port Chester.
JONATHAN WANG, CRCA: Hi.
ASTORINO: How are you Tom? Sorry.
JONATHAN WANG, CRCA: Hello?
ASTORINO: Yes sir, how are you Tom? Tom in Port Chester. [click] Mmmm, there you go. Calling once, calling twice, Tom?
TOM: Okay, I’m here.
ASTORINO: Alright, there you go, get in, fire away.
TOM: Alright, there we go. Yeah. Alright. So – in light of the fact that it’s a 40 year lease as the previous caller had said, my question was: what would happen for us, you said there were protections, which is great. You certainly want to be protected when you go into any lease, whether it be a car lease or a 40 year lease for the county or the taxpayers, but, should something happen and we need to get out, how is that going to affect the day to day operation of the airport?
ASTORINO: Okay, so, if you mean if the lease is broken, what would happen at some point? If the lease is broken, or, if they default, let’s say, the county still maintains ownership, as we have from day one. Here’s the benefit though: the payments will have already been made to the county. Second, any improvements that they make over there is to the benefit of the county, so if they redesign and improve the inside of the terminal, let’s say, which I think needs improvement, then, that all benefits the flying public and the taxpayers. It’s an expense the county doesn’t have to do in the future, it’s already done. So they have to leave it, if they’re ever to get out of the lease on their own or through mutual agreement, they have to leave it as good or better than when they received it. But if they default? All the benefits that have been accrued will be the benefit of the county, we don’t have to pay them back. Okay, I hope that answers your question.
Let us go to, um, let’s see, Mr. Cohen? In White Plains? Is that right? How are you, sir?
COHEN [18:20]: Hello, Rob?
ASTORINO: Yes sir, how are you?
COHEN: How are you? First of all, I think Rob Astorino is the best thing since chopped liver that has hit this county.
ASTORINO: Well thank you, I appreciate it.
COHEN: I’m a lifelong resident of Westchester County, 45 year resident of White Plains, and a commercial pilot with an instrument rating. I’ve landed thousands of times in my own plane at Westchester County. I am obviously in favor of aviation and so on. My question to you is, are the majority of the people who live all over Westchester County, not only in Rye or a flight path in Mt. Pleasant, with respect, or, uh, are the majority of people in favor of restricting the growth of this airport? Well that’s also, my wife says, because she’s been on my right side when she landed, you know where’s the third runway which we had, and Greenwich’s trees and everything. But pull all that aside, very simply: if you know, uh, and you may not, are the majority of people who live in Westchester County in favor of restricting the airport’s growth? Whether it’s private, whether the county owns it, and it’s maybe a little off the subject, because I recognize this subject as being that [cut off]
ASTORINO: [garbled] the answer to your question, because, you know, this process has been played out publicly I would say for now, what, a year, year and a half, something like that. And so the public is getting a lot of misinformation, and so part of tonight was to try to tell everybody exactly what is correct and what is not correct, what is fact and not fact. And, and so I’ve tried to give you a laundry list. Whether people hopefully are in favor of it or not, I don’t know, but, there is a process. It’s a public process, and ultimately the elected officials are responsible, and, uh, accountable, and so this process of course will go to the Board of Legislators, ultimately for their approval. It takes a supermajority, so it takes twelve of the seventeen to approve this kind of lease, and uh, so that’s even an extra protection for you. So I hope that answered your question.
Alright, let’s see, who we got here. James in Purchase. How are you, James? James?
JAMES [20:46]: Hi Mr. Astorino. My question is, under the current arrangement, neither AvPorts nor the county has an incentive to make more money [noise, clicks] private aviation [clicks] passenger [clicks].
ASTORINO: Sorry, I can’t – you’re breaking up all over the place, I’m sorry, You can try to call back, maybe you were on a cell phone. Let’s see, Tom in Eastchester. How are you Tom? Tom in Eastchester, how are you?
TOM [21:17]: County Executive, how are you today?
ASTORINO: I’m good, how are you?
TOM: Yeah, uh, when you were in Eastchester, at the town hall meeting that we had here, you observed that the airport has been operated privately since the middle of the 40s, 1945 I think it was. So this is not a new thing. And I think that you should make this a more of a part of your pitch for the airport being operated by a private company, because the media has made it the privatization of the airport, that’s kind of their buzzword or buzzphrase, and that this is a bad thing and it’ll never work. When in fact it has worked all of this time and the county still has all of the controls that they need over the operation.
ASTORINO: That is correct. That’s correct. As I said in the very beginning, yes, the county has a contract with a company called AvPorts for many years, and, when the federal government turned over the airport from the military to general purposes, to the county in 1945, since that day, the county has had a private company run the airport for it. So, it is not a privatization, it is a public private partnership, and the partnership is very important because again, the county elected officials will be setting policy, will be having approval and disapproval over construction projects there. Everything that is done with regard to projects have to go through the environmental review which the county obviously oversees so there’s a lot of, a lot of things there that are not going to change. In fact, most people aren’t going to see any change whatsoever in the daily operations when you go there. You’re not going to know whether the county is running it or a private company, like Playland. Does anyone know whether it’s a county worker or private company doing it? No. You want to go, you want to be safe, you want to have a good time, you want a good experience, and that’s really the bottom line. And that’s really going to be the same thing with the, with the airport.
Alright, Dan in Bedford. Dan, how are you today?
DAN [23:30]: Yes, good evening. Thanks for taking my question. I’m a commercial pilot, I’ve been flying out of Westchester for 30 years and my livelihood depends on it. I agree with you, I think AvPorts has done a wonderful job. Steve Ferguson and his crew are wonderful. My question is, uh, my understanding that this prospective manager, they’re in it for a buck, it’s a business arrangement obviously, and their main plan for increasing revenues is to improve catering operations and increase the parking, what I always feel is costly parking price structure there. Are there any other, what are the other revenue streams that they plan for, uh, making their returns acceptable to them?
ASTORINO: Alright, Dan, good question. So, obviously there’s a lot of things over there. You know what this is like? I kind of thought about this. When you move into a really nice neighborhood and there’s really nice homes, and the one house that’s for sale is kind of falling down a little bit, it, it’s got a lot of potential, and still going to be the same size, it’s gonna be fixed up, it’s gonna look real nice, it’s gonna increase in value. That’s kind of what this airport is right now. It’s an airport that’s underutilized, um, it can serve the passengers and stay within the passenger cap and the limits. The concessions there are, quite frankly, not up to par, not what you should expect if you’re going to an airport. So there’s a lot of different things where the public would want to pay more. They’d want to go and have better dining experiences or, uh, you know, all these different options. Better parking operation. You could have one of these leases that, you know, the regular public doesn’t care about, but the county has leases with fixed based operators, it’s called, or, these, hangars. When these leases expire, and quite frankly, they’re below market rate now, when they’re renegotiated in 5, 10, 15, 20 years, whatever it is, they’re going to be brought up to market rate and there’s going to be more money in that for this company. So there’s a lot of different avenues where, quite frankly, the county and AvPorts, there’s no desire to go make it much better because there’s no profit in it. We can’t use the money as it is now. If you improve the passenger experience, you improve the operations, then this private company will see a return on their investment and the county is gonna make money. County makes the money, it passes it on to the taxpayers by holding the line on taxes. That’s – that’s the cycle that we need. So, I hope that answered your questions. There’s a lot of areas there that are underutilized that could be made much better.
Tracy in Pleasantville, how are you Tracy?
TRACY [26:23]: Hi. Hi, can you hear me?
ASTORINO: Yes, how are you.
TRACY: Okay. So, uh, so I understand that the current arrangement, there’s caps on the number of flights in the commercial sector but there’s zero regulation around the private general aviation. And I live in the flight path, I’ve been here 12 years, and it just seems like recently there’s been a huge increase in the number of private jets and planes going over my house, and, with this new lease, where the focus of the leaseholder is to make money, I just see it exploding with private aviation. We see Jay-Z’s offered, uh, Uber of the sky or something like that. What are we going to do to protect these taxpayers and our home values?
ASTORINO: Okay, so, uh, Tracy, thank you for the question. Couple things: you’re right with regard to the cap on commercial airlines and the flights. There is a limit per day of, well, eleven and a half thousand is what it comes out to be. There’s a limit per half hour on commercial planes coming in and out, 240 passengers. What you’re mentioning is the private flights. Unfortunately, under federal law, the FAA does not permit – it prohibits airports from restricting private planes landing at airports. So we have no control now, nor will we if this public private partnership takes effect to restrict the number of private planes that come in, general aviation, private planes. That’s by federal law. Part of it too, is, and I don’t know if you heard earlier, you’re in Pleasantville, I’m in Hawthorne, so, you might have them coming in one way, I’ve got them coming the other way when they’re going west. And so, uh, often times, and I think it would be probably more on your side in Pleasantville where they’re going closer east and they’re going from, probably north to south. You have planes that are flying both private and commercial that are not going to the county airport, they’re actually going to LaGuardia. And the FAA, the flight, um, tower at LaGuardia will send planes in that way. So, it’s coming over our houses, your house, but they’re not going to the county airport, they’re actually going to LaGuardia. Now, that’s some of it. Some of it, clearly, is going to the county airport. But to answer your question, under federal law, there can be no restrictions on the private flights coming in or out of the airport. We also have a curfew, a voluntary curfew because you cannot have a, by law, you can’t have a curfew at the airport, uh, so it’s a voluntary curfew, which most abide by. But, you know the plane is late leaving out of Florida and it’s bad weather, or it’s gonna land at 12:30, one o’clock it’s gonna land. And, same thing with, you know, a private jet coming in from wherever, they’re gonna let them land, because it’s a voluntary curfew and you can’t restrict that as well.
Okay, let’s see. Richard in White Plains, how are you Richard?
RICHARD [29:45]: Fine. Fine, thank you. I’m good. I have two questions, if that’s okay with you.
ASTORINO: You got it.
RICHARD: Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?
ASTORINO: I can hear you, it’s a twofer, go ahead.
RICHARD: Okay the first question is, uh, has the county made any projections on the amount of income they would receive from this new arrangement?
ASTORINO: Not yet, because, um, don’t know what the terms are yet, financial terms.
RICHARD: Okay, the second question, go ahead.
ASTORINO: I don’t have that number yet, it’s still confidential that the task force and the consultants are looking at, they’re reviewing.
RICHARD: Okay. The second question is, how do you handle a situation where the county representatives believe some improvements should be made but this new vendor chooses not to make them.
ASTORINO: Say that again?
RICHARD: Working on the assumption that county representatives believe certain improvements should be made, hypothetically, to the waiting areas, and yet the new company controlling the destiny disagrees with you?
ASTORINO: Okay, so, that’s a good question. Again, ultimately the county owns the airport. If the county, let’s say, wanted something at the airport, that is something that can be negotiated with the company that is running it. And if the county feels very, very, very strongly about something, I think our partner there would probably be receptive to it. So, you know, this is a partnership, this is not, we’re handing the keys, turning our backs, and walking away – this is a true partnership with very strict restrictions on it, what they can and can’t do, and oversight, and control ultimately by the county. The oversight is important, the policy is set by the county. Going forward, again, if they want to build things at the airport, they have to come to the county for approval. They have to go through the process with regard to, um, the state environmental quality review act, which is the environmental procedures that they have to go through and the study. So all of that still is in effect, and that’s an important distinction because people are thinking, okay, we sign the deal, the county walks away, there’s no protections for anyone, they’re just going to run roughshod, the environment’s going to be polluted, there’s going to be flights every 3 seconds. It can’t happen, it won’t happen, and it should not happen, so, you have to understand that we’re just as concerned of this happening as anyone else would be.
Uh, let’s see, Dr. Merrero? Is that it?
DR. MERRERO [32:48]: Hi! Uh, how are you tonight, Mr. Astorino? I’m a pediatrician, I live in White Plains, and two of my big interests, personally and professionally, are air quality, as it impacts public health, and the other interest I find, and all of us really should be thinking about given the news in recent weeks, is taking care of a community after natural disasters. My first question is, I know air quality is monitored in our county. I know the state’s supposed to do it, the EPA has to approve it. I want to know who will be responsible for doing that, and will there be any changes as a result of, um, any improvements. So, for example, if we do have increased flights, and although Ii understand you’re not saying that we won’t approve, like a crazy number of increased flights, um, will there be any changes to air quality monitoring, for example?
ASTORINO: [unintelligible] you there one second Dr. Merrero. Um, the, there’s a cap now. And so, the airlines are well below the cap. They, meaning the number of passengers that are flying in and out every day. They can, today, without this deal, whether this goes forward or not, they have the ability to increase the number of flights up to the cap, that’s by, by the agreement. So, they can do that whether this plan goes forward or not, so I think that’s a misnomer too in the community, that there will be, that there will be increased flights. There could be increased flights, but there could be increased flights tomorrow or, whether or not this deal ever goes into effect. The, with regard to the environmental, obviously this is something that you care about, I care about too. I have three kids who are growing up in this county. We live here too, and obviously we are very environmentally conscious in this county. And, the responsibility would be for the company, with oversight by the county, and they would pay for it, but I think you need to look at this from their perspective for a second, just as opposed to, from our perspective, meaning ours as a resident. They, as a company, are responsible to their boards, to their investors, you see how the world is going with regards to a lot of these investments, where they set aside investments for funds that will help the environment and green initiatives. All these things are beneficial not just to residents and to the environment but also to their bottom lines. They do investments in this thing. The last thing, the last thing that any private company would want to happen over there is some sort of environmental disaster. Because the airport would shut down, they would get zero revenue, the whole deal would fall apart for them. I mean, I’m just talking dollars and cents here, let’s put all the other issues aside, that’s the last thing that they would ever want to happen. So they will probably be more sensitive to environmental issues, which is a good thing. They don’t want anything to leach into the Blind Brook or to the Rye reservoir, lake. They don’t want any of that. So, with the oversight that the county provides, with the environmental laws and protections we already have in place, and, selfishly on their behalf, with their profit at stake, the last thing that they want is an environmental mishap or disaster that would cause them to either go bankrupt or to not be as profitable or to, as a company, be blacklisted if you will, and as a company not be able to continue to go forward with other investments in the country or world. So, I think you have to look at it from a whole bunch of perspectives. Nobody wants anything bad to happen over there.
Um, let’s see. Steven in Chappaqua. Hi Steven, how are you?
STEVEN [36:52]: Thank you for taking my call, I appreciate it.
ASTORINO: No problem.
STEVEN: Thanks for doing this tonight. Um, I think the concept’s been proven, I think it’s a great idea, but you lost me at the amount that the county would receive, and, I’m just being totally blunt…
ASTORINO: We don’t know what the answer…
STEVEN: …being blunt, and, when you said this is good for the county, tell me how we know it will be good for the county if we don’t know what the county would receive. Are we getting a fixed amount every year, is that negotiated we’re getting a percentage of the revenue, we getting a percentage of the margin, um, that’s one question. The other question is, is this company, because they’re in it for the profit, are they allowed to exit before forty years or sell the company, and if they do that at a profit, do we have the ability to say yes or no that this can happen. Can we benefit if there’s a profit on that? And then third question is, what happens to the county employees that are part of this, the airport now?
ASTORINO: Okay. Let me try to answer some of your questions. Thank you for, uh, it seems like you’re in the financial business. You should be sitting at the table for us.
We obviously have some good experts who are looking at this clearly, and they understand where the world is at with regards to airports and the finances of airports and how these deals are structured. And they’re working very closely with the Democrats and the Republicans on the board. The total amount is not known yet. And when I say that, I have not seen it. I know the task force members are under confidentiality agreements as they are looking at the numbers. How the deal will be structured is still to be determined. There is a profit sharing in this. Here’s the big thing you mentioned: can the company exit the deal at some point, as, you know, look, private investors are looking at an exit point at some point. Maybe they go, if it’s a 40 year deal, maybe they go the 40 years, I don’t know. At some point if they were to sell their equity in this, the answer is yes, they can do that. But when they do leave, the part of the profit, a percentage of the profit will also come to the county. So there really is no downside. There’s no loss for the county. I don’t know if you heard earlier, but if this company were to default let’s say, all the improvements that were made become improvements for the county. We don’t pay them back, there’s nothing like that. The money will have already been received by the taxpayers to be used, not to be paid back. So, there really is an incentive for the company to stay in it for the long term, but if they do decide to shed some of their equity or all of it, obviously it has to go to a company that’s going to abide by all the terms of that lease with the same protections and guarantees, but the county will get a percentage of that exit, so that’s a good thing.
Alright, we’ll take, um, we’ve been on, wow, 45 minutes we’ve been on, that’s pretty good. Let’s just go another couple hours. [laughs] By the way, I just want to tell everybody: follow me on Facebook or Twitter, it’s @RobAstorino, we also have your county government, our Facebook, you can always ask me questions on that and we’ll get back to you. You can always email me at CE, as in County Executive, [email protected].
ASTORINO [40:18]: Alright let’s see, Caroline in Mt. Pleasant. How are you, Caroline? Caroline? Caroline going once, Caroline going twice? No Caroline? Alright.
Let’s see, who else. Alright, Rick in Yonkers. Rick, how are you, sir? Rick?
RICK: Yeah hi, good evening, uh, can you hear me?
ASTORINO: Yes sir, go ahead.
RICK: I got you. Okay. Yeah, I was wondering about, and I had asked this question, I had heard nothing about voter referendums on any of this, and I’m just wondering why this meeting tonight – it’s a good idea, don’t get me wrong – but why this meeting tonight sounds like you’re just pretty much telling us what you’re going to do and what you’re going to seek to do, and you’re not asking the voters how they feel about it, especially people in the flight path there. I would think that they would feel a lot more comfortable if this was sent to a ballot measure or a ballot initiative rather than this, the way you guys are going now, um [cut off].
ASTORINO: Well, let me, let me answer your question here. It’s like almost everything else we do in county government. We had, for instance, at Playland. That was not put to a referendum, it’s a management deal, it’s something that your representatives on the county board, uh, doing their due diligence decided to move forward with, just like we do many things in this county. The, ah, this is a deal that is not done in any way, shape, or form. Far from it. This is something that potentially and hopefully will have significant upsides for county taxpayers, for the traveling public who use the airport, with all of the protections that I talked about all night. And this is something that will obviously play out in public because the public is going to know every bit and piece of this lease and every bit and piece of this idea, and ultimately the elected officials who represent you are going to have to make a decision, whether it’s a yes or a no. And it does take a higher burden, it’s not just a simple majority, it’s 12 votes out of the 17. And so if it’s not a deal that any of us are comfortable with, then we won’t do it. And if it’s a deal that all of us do feel comfortable with ’cause, you know, we all have to live with this one, and it’s a real good opportunity, it’s an opportunity hopefully to get a lot of money for the taxpayers, put our asset to work for us, and that’s how we hold down the line on taxes. So, ah – not everything should or could go to a referendum, but this is, this is what democracy looks like, because the public’s going to have their say, and the elected officials are going to have to make their decision based on what they feel is best.
So, we’re out of time now, but I want to say to everybody, thank you very much for listening in, I do appreciate it. Again, feel free to follow me on Twitter and Facebook, we can get your questions answered. You can email me at [email protected]. I know there are people who are holding on for some more questions, again, just let us know what they are, we’ll get back to you.
So thank you very much and, uh, Yankees playing right now? Let’s go Yankees. Thank you everybody.