Terminal Illness

By Mark David Blum, Esq.

Sixty three million dollars is proposed to be invested in upgrading Syracuse’s airport. That money comes from loans and from a “fee” charged to every plane ticket in and out of the City. In addition to a boiler and solar heating plates, the bulk of the investment will be to create a bullpen large enough to hold all travelers while TSA screens luggage at a single point for every outgoing passenger.

Setting aside the nightmare that comes from such a large trapped crowd and ignoring for a moment the additional fees charged just for the privilege of landing in Syracuse, spending $63 million at this point in time for superficial improvements is a waste of precious resources.

Thousands of people have lost their jobs here. Food banks and homeless shelters are bursting at the seams. Money for the poor and needy is in very short supply this year with many agencies unable to meet demand. Our roads are in serious disrepair and our community is falling apart at the seams. Taxes and fees are outrageous and mismatched to actual demand or need. Did I read too that the City of Syracuse is refusing to repair broken down schools and is shuttering others? I wonder how Blodgett parents feel about this airport project.

For a City that cries poverty when it comes to infrastructure repair or providing services to the poor, to find $63 million to throw at an airport defies logic and common sense. The best argument made by proponents of this construction is that doing so will make the airport more user friendly.

Frankly, if legislators and the Mayor want the airport to be more ‘user friendly’, there is a simple solution. Make the planes land and take off on time. Nothing moves an airport and assures customer satisfaction than airlines honoring their promises. People plan around those schedules and when they are ignored, lives are disrupted. No number of vending machines or new gift shops will solve that problem.

Travelers do not visit an airport. They pass through it; at least that is the goal. Either they are passing through to another plane or are off the plane and out the door. Building more restaurants and bars in the airport when people are hungry and sleeping on the City’s streets is not the solution. A more user friendly and honest airport would have beds and roll-a-ways for the passengers stranded due to delays and cancellations.

Adding a four dollar and fifty cent fee for every ticket in and out of Syracuse similarly does the public no good. Already our airport is an unwelcome destination given how much more expensive it is to fly in and out of Syracuse. Travelers can save hundreds of dollars by flying out of Rochester or Albany. An additional fee by the City of Syracuse only bleeds more dollars from the City as it simply is too expensive to fly or out. A fee is not helping the problem.

Having been through the airport enough times to consider myself as being relatively well informed, including just a few days ago, I can unequivocally state that the airport works fine. It may need a new boiler and perhaps solar heating. But a massive construction project with no real benefit is not the solution. Fix the roads, help the hungry, and lower taxes; those are the answers. If one thing must be done, try getting the airlines to honor their published schedules.

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