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NEW WINDSOR, NY-The first day that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took over operations at Stewart International Airport here, a new airline announced plans to begin service at the airport. At a ceremony at the airport on Thursday, Gov. Eliot Spitzer and a host of political and business dignitaries were on hand to celebrate the Port Authority’s takeover of the airport. The airport is owned by the State of New York.

The Port Authority Board of Commissioners in January authorized the purchase of the operating lease from National Express Corp. of the UK for $78.5 million, and in September approved more than $17 million in future parking and roadway improvements. The lease runs through 2099.

Since the Port Authority expressed interest in utilizing Stewart as a facility to help alleviate congestion at its New York City area airports in late 2006, JetBlue and AirTran have launched service at Stewart and passenger air traffic utilizing the facility has tripled. At Thursday morning’s press conference it was announced that SkyBus would begin air service to Columbus and Greensboro, NC beginning in early 2008. Political and business leaders believe that with the Port Authority at the controls, Stewart International Airport could be a catalyst for growth for Orange County and the entire region.

“The Port Authority has the resources and expertise to help Stewart International Airport realize its potential as a major transportation hub for this vastly expanding region,” says Gov. Spitzer. “As I stated in my inaugural address, the expansion of Stewart International Airport will help to stimulate economic development in the Hudson Valley and beyond, and with our Smart Growth Initiative we will ensure responsible planning and environmentally sound growth. Additional air capacity at Stewart will also help ease congestion currently afflicting our increasingly stressed metropolitan airports as we near their capacity and plan for future population and passenger growth.”

Port Authority executive director Anthony Shorris says, “Like the entire Hudson Valley, Stewart is primed for growth, and the Port Authority is perfectly positioned to make that growth a reality. We know how to make airports work for their passengers and their communities, and we look forward to taking on this challenge with help from the new Stewart Citizen’s Advisory Panel and Gov. Spitzer’s Lower Hudson Smart Growth Planning Initiative.”

The Regional Smart Growth Initiative announced by the governor will include the establishment of a state planning council and a state commitment of $500,000 in grants to local communities to plan for increased growth and development in the region in connection with the planned growth at Stewart International Airport, state officials say. Port Authority officials add that the agency has been in active discussions with air carriers that currently offer scheduled flights to several cities in Florida, as well as Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia, to come to Stewart.

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