NEW YORK CITY-Last week President Bush allotted $2 billion in unused Liberty Zone tax benefits for the development of a railroad linking JFK International Airport to lower Manhattan. While the decision still needs to make its way through the legislative branch, industry sources are already lauding the project for the significant economic boost it will most likely bring to Downtown.

“It is really a piece of essential infrastructure that can catapult lower Manhattan,” turning it into a central business district, says Eric Deutsch, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York. The rail line will link Long Island, Downtown Brooklyn and JFK to Lower Manhattan. Deutsch says the line will “provide connectivity to our transportation network that we don’t currently have and it will provide quick and easy access to the labor pool.

Traditionally, Lower Manhattan experiences more acutely the ebbs and flows of the economy. But Deutsch says, “This will help smooth transition and bring more commercial development.”

The project is expected to create 80,000 permanent jobs and between $9 billion and $12 billion yearly in economic output. Deutsch says the additional jobs will create a demand for office space to come to the area and add to the recent residential growth. Now, boasting 40,000 residents, the rail line will only enhance that number as “more people will want to be in this vibrant mixed-use area.”

The increased traffic downtown will also fuel retail development as tourists and commuters will look for restaurants and shops, Deutsch says. “The project would really be a change into a long term self sustaining business district.”

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a number of government officials lauded the project as a way of maintaining New York’s status as the premier business city in the world – a title New York City is in danger of losing based on a recent report.

“We are pleased that the President has recognized how vital the Lower Manhattan-JFK Rail Link is to the future of Downtown as the nation’s premier business district,” says William Rudin, chairman of the Association for a Better New York, in a statement. “The rail link will improve access and increase the global competitiveness and sustainability of New York City.”

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