Nov 08

JetBlue Plans for an Open-Air Park with Dog Walk at JFK Terminal 5

JetBlue plane tails

Terminal at J.F.K. Could Soon Offer Travelers a Bit of the High Line

By PATRICK McGEEHAN – NOV. 6, 2014 – New York Times

Travelers passing through Kennedy International Airport may soon be able to get a taste of the High Line without leaving JetBlue’s expanded terminal.

On a smaller scale, JetBlue hopes to replicate the experience of the High Line, the popular elevated park in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, atop the extension it just added for international arrivals.

The extension, a $200 million addition to Terminal 5, is scheduled to open to travelers on Wednesday, ending the airline’s awkward arrangement that had international passengers leaving from its terminal but arriving at gates it had leased in Terminal 4, which already had a customs area.

JetBlue planned park atop terminalJetBlue’s president, Robin Hayes, said that the airline would no longer have to tow empty planes back from Terminal 4. Now, JetBlue’s terminal has a glass-walled arrivals hall complete with 40 automated passport readers, a disease-control area, a lab for inspecting plants and fruit, and holding cells for suspected smugglers. And by next year, the terminal’s designer, Gensler, hopes to turn the roof of the arrivals hall into an open-air park with a dog walk, a play area for children and a few patches of grass.

On a clear day, you could stand out there, gaze to the west and see the spire of 1 World Trade Center, said Ty Osbaugh, the architect who oversaw the project for Gensler.

“We said, ‘We’ve got this roof; what can we do with this roof?’ ” Mr. Osbaugh said, standing on it as a light rain fell on Thursday.

They decided to turn it into an inviting bit of New York City for people seeking some fresh air while they wait to board planes. Mr. Osbaugh said that it would be the only outdoor space accessible to all passengers in any of the terminals at Kennedy.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Kennedy, requires that terminals offer travelers a place to walk their dogs, he said. But those spaces are usually outside the secure zone, meaning that taking Spot for a jaunt involves a trip back through the screening queue. Given the rooftop space they had to work with, the designers decided to take a cue from the High Line and provide a venue for human recreation as well, he said.

Mr. Osbaugh said the rooftop, which is expected to be completed next year, would look “a lot like the High Line, but not quite that industrial.” He said some vendors in the terminal had inquired about the possibility of serving food and drinks there.

The inclusion of a minipark fits with Mr. Osbaugh’s campaign to make the terminal less of a place to be slogged through and more of a pleasant conduit. He designed the ramps that carry passengers from arriving planes to the customs area to include glass walls that allow natural light to flood in.

In theory, he said, a traveler with nothing to declare to customs agents could get from a plane through baggage claim and out of the terminal in just 28 minutes. The electronic kiosks can scan passports and clear travelers in 45 seconds or less, he said. He added that JetBlue revamped its process for unloading luggage to make sure international passengers would not wind up waiting at carousels after passing through the checkpoints staffed by United States Customs and Border Protection.
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JetBlue JFK Terminal-2Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority, said the project to expand Terminal 5 was estimated to have created 1,090 jobs, including construction jobs, and generated $74 million in wages and $325 million in total economic activity. He thanked JetBlue for helping to improve conditions and add capacity at Kennedy. Mr. Hayes, who will become JetBlue’s chief executive next year, said that he had traveled extensively and believed that “we have built something here that is one of the best terminals in the world.”

That sort of talk is a far cry from the words usually used in discussions about New York City’s airports. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., while deploring the poor state of the country’s transportation infrastructure, famously likened arriving at La Guardia Airport to landing in a “third-world country.”

Mr. Hayes was quick to note that Mr. Biden had much nicer words for JetBlue’s home base. And he agreed with the sentiment Mr. Biden expressed when he visited the city last month and said, “It doesn’t matter how nice J.F.K.’s JetBlue terminal is if you can’t get in and out of the terminal quickly.”

Mr. Biden had joined Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to announce a competition for ideas to improve the city’s airports. Mr. Hayes said “the challenge of J.F.K. is the surface conditions,” and he added that the hope was that someone would dream up a feasible way “to go from central Manhattan to J.F.K. in 30 minutes.”

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