New York Senators urge FAA to keep Griffiss and Ithaca Tompkins airport control towers open

There's a new push to save two airport control towers in Central New York, which are currently set to close on June 15th.

Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are asking the federal government to keep Griffiss International Airport in Oneida County and Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport in Tompkins County open as they are essential to the Central New York economy and security across the Northeast.

The towers are among a group of 24 airport control towers across the country that the Federal Aviation Administration plans to close this summer due to federal budget cuts. Griffiss International and Ithaca Tompkins Regional are the only towers slated for closure in New York State.

An FAA Contract Tower is a privately-run control tower that gets a federal subsidy from the FAA.

Schumer and Gillibrand wrote to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta encouraging him to keep the towers open at least through this year.

If Griffiss International closes, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. Says the FAA, and Oneida County by default, will lose $72 million.

Armed forces have historically used the base as a training site and a staging area for disaster relief operations including September 11th.

They continue to use it now in their emergency response planning for parts of the Northeast and New England.

"To close this tower is short sighted, and a flat out mistake," says Picente Jr.

To live within the means of budget cuts, the FAA must reduce $637 million from operations this year, cutting nearly $50 million from the Federal Contract Tower program.

Schumer and Gillibrand are also asking the Senate Appropriations Committee to include full-funding for the federal contract tower program in its 2014 bill, to keep Griffiss International and Ithaca Tompkins Regional open for the long-term.

"While I can value the need to cut waste, it should not be on the backs of Upstate New York residents, national security, businesses, and the local economies," says Senator Schumer. "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 says. "Our military installation and local economy in the Mohawk Valley depend on an airport with a functioning control tower. We need to keep this airport fully up and running, and find smarter ways to cut spending."