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Discussions Take Off For Possible State Purchase Of Sikorsky Airport

November 17th, 2016 · 26 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Budget, Development and Zoning, News and Events

Sikorsky airport

Aerial of Sikorsky Airport.

The city-owned Sikorsky Memorial Airport is an enigma, never living up to its original promise as an economic driver for the region. It functions at an annual operating loss of about $500,000, according to city officials. The city has been handcuffed through the decades because any expansion must be approved by land use regulations in the host town Stratford. With safety improvements completed recently, negotiations are underway for a possible state purchase of the airport by the Connecticut Airport Authority.

Established in 2011, the CAA operates Bradley International Airport and the state’s five general aviation airports Danielson, Groton-New London, Hartford-Brainard, Waterbury-Oxford, and Windham airports.

Sikorsky is owned by the city but located in the Lordship section of Stratford where neighborhood residents aren’t exactly flying high about a modern aviation hub. Expansion opposition from Stratford, runway issues and decades of inaction all contribute to the airport’s financial drain on the city. About 25 years ago then-Governor Lowell Weicker considered a state purchase of the airport to infuse the cash-strapped city with new revenue. About 20 years ago Donald Trump pondered a purchase of the airport property to build an Indianapolis-style racetrack that included a direct fly-in to events. Again Stratford opposition prevailed.

City officials are in discussions with CAA, the best likely fit for a purchase. The sale price being kicked around is a couple of million dollars, but city officials see a sale as saving the city millions in the long term. A sale requires approval by the CAA board of directors and the Airport Commission that includes as members Mayor Joe Ganim and City Council President Tom McCarthy.

What’s in it for the state? A southern Connecticut airport presence that would be better maintained as a marketing attraction for Fairfield County-based corporate flights.

The city-owned history with the airport goes back to the Jasper McLevy mayoral years in the late 1930s.

OIB has requested a comment from CAA officials.

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26 Comments so far ↓

  • Frank Gyure

    Please Sell IT. One situation where selling a city assit (misspelled purposely) makes $ense.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Financial decision-making in this City, short-, mid- and longer-term is wanting. Just before the Finch administration, the Airport was showing a balanced budget (and no more was sought from it than that because were it to be profitable it might have to pay taxes to Stratford).
    During the Finch administration it was subject to:
    ## An increase in payroll and a decline in lease revenue resulting in losses that trended larger.
    ## A decision to participate in safety renovation of the Airport that totaled more than $45 Million, most from the Federal government but an expense of $2 Million to the City as well in recent years.
    ## A “scandalous” provision of a road to a private home of a privileged local contractor, due to assumed rush to comply with guidelines and failure of oversight systems including both Mayor and Council President.
    ## The continued existence of the site and function that has done very little for the average Bridgeport citizen and taxpayer for a number of years.
    ## Is there no one making an “economic driver” argument in favor of keeping the site as a City asset?
    ## The Airport was also a site for jobs that could be provided to Bridgeport voters, including a one-time City Council member. (If the Airport is sold, will all City employees cease to be on the City payroll, unless they secure another City job through bumping rights or like situation?) Time will tell.

  • Local Eyes

    I wish OPED would give anyone a chance to make a contact and help sell Sikorsky Airport. It has classy, historical value and fantastic location for newly emerging forms of transportation. Deep-pocketed individuals might have an interest in it. Not many have sold an airport before. My hat seeks more feathers. Give anyone a chance to sell Sikorsky Memorial Airport. Make the announcement here.
    Bonus: twitter.com/ZeeAero/followers

    • Ron Mackey

      Paul, would you address this statement from above, “Sikorsky is owned by the city but located in the Lordship section of Stratford where neighborhood residents aren’t exactly flying high about a modern aviation hub. Expansion opposition from Stratford, runway issues and decades of inaction all contribute to the airport’s financial drain on the city,” to what you are suggesting?

  • Local Eyes

    The world is full of potential buyers for Sikorsky Airport. Connecticut is not an innovator in transportation, these people are:
    www .jobyaviation.com/about
    www .zee.aero/

  • Local Eyes

    Even if they rejected it, there’s not a hedge fund in the world that wouldn’t want to look at an airport. Why? Answer: airports for sale are rare and scarcity creates value and hedge funds can’t get too much of that.

    • Ron Mackey

      Paul Griffin, there are a few people who know you and Lennie has spoken about you so you are a known person to some on OIB. Andy Fardy in the past had the name “town committee” but we knew who he was and he started using his real name because he wasn’t trying to hide from anybody.

    • Frank Gyure

      Maybe PG should buy Sikorsky Airport himself–and he can prove all his 100% pure capitalist/Ayn Rand-ian theories and see if the theories hold up.

      • Local Eyes

        I’m looking to buy a parachute, not an airport. This way, I can strap you in, push you out of an airplane and see if you have what it takes to pull the ripcord.
        (wink)

  • Tom White

    Does anyone recall the City of Bridgeport once owned a nursing home?
    Bridgeport should not be in the business of operating an airport. It is not a function of a municipality and Bridgeport is no longer the economic engine of the region.

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Yes Tom, the Dinan Center. The “Dining Center” for city political patronage.

      • Bob Fredericks

        And favors, Len. Grace Mandanici fixed it so my grandmother could jump the line and get into the Dinan ahead of many others because my aunt was a HS classmate. My beef was she did her no favors because the place, back in ’80s I’m talking about, was an absolute shithole with so many patronage hires not giving a damn about the inmates.

  • Jeff Kohut

    This city has been selling off its assets, re-zoning ever-dwindling parkland/open space, and accommodating the economic development needs of other towns at the expense of Bridgeport taxpayers (to the detriment of Bridgeport neighborhoods) for six decades. This decades-long modus operandi over several City Hall administrations suggests a confluence of City Hall corruption, City Hall mismanagement/ineptitude, and state-/federal-level coercion of a distressed city on behalf of suburban powerbrokers (by way of state-/federal-level corruption in a context of intergovernmental complicity).

    Since the 1950s we’ve seen our downtown and tens of millions of dollars of Bridgeport tax base (perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars in accrued tax revenue) obliterated by state and federal mandate designed to accommodate the financial interests of suburban powerbrokers and out-of-state investors seeking to exploit Bridgeport labor and the Bridgeport consumer market (e.g. the Route 25-8 Connector, the planned Seaview Avenue Connector and Train Station). We’ve seen our beautiful open spaces sold off and/or rezoned for highway construction (Route 25-8) regional schools and office parks benefiting other communities at Bridgeport expense (Fairchild Wheeler and Beardsley Park). Recently we’ve seen Bridgeport parkland conveyed to a predatory/parasitic educational institution (based in Fairfield) such that this institution will be able to further expand and commandeer Bridgeport resources, steal Bridgeport services, and destroy Bridgeport neighborhoods.

    The list of state-/federal-mandated projects that displaced taxable grand list through the use of eminent domain against Bridgeport citizens/taxpayers is extensive.

    And the list of Bridgeport assets sold off (even given away) to private investors and the state is extensive–and unrivaled by any other comparable municipality.

    Now, for the City to sell off a square mile of incredibly valuable land (capable of very lucrative, versatile, synergistic uses) to the state suggests many negative possibilities and nefarious motives.

    Where did this idea come from? Who are the political and private players involved? Why is this being discussed at this time?

    To this student of Bridgeport history, it suggests Bridgeport is in far worse shape than anybody outside the Governor’s Office and City Hall (other than their biggest campaign contributors/business partners) has even a slight clue about, and private vultures are drooling and cajoling potential business partners/developers in the Governor’s office and City Hall to create and get in on a once-in-a-century deal to grab eminently developable coastal land, served by abundant power and transportation infrastructure for practically nothing (just the way R. L. Scinto grabbed the remaining acreage of Fairchild Wheeler Park, just to mention one of several recent examples of such city “fire sales”).

    To think we have another City Hall administration that is willing to display such an absurd level of ineptitude, even in the context of possible corruption, is simply unreal. Twilight Zone stuff.

    What a singular lack of imagination and shameless display of mindless adherence to pattern!

    Here we have Local Eyes publicly drooling over the possibilities suggested by the ownership/control of this coastal square mile of airport-zoned land. And I don’t mean to assault Local Eyes’ genuine appreciation of the potential of this airport property. It should be obvious to anyone, especially the City hall stewards of Bridgeport’s assets.

    Any City Hall administration with a whole, collective, functioning brain, operating on the up-and-up would have no trouble designing possible, very lucrative development and lease scenarios for that property that would preclude any financial necessity of selling the property for any price. As was indicated in Local Eyes’ post and by others speculating about the possibilities of the airport property, there are new transportation options, extant and in development, that could utilize the Sikorsky space in synergy with many other uses.

    This proposal to sell Sikorsky Airport is just one more indication of how compromised the well-being of our city and state have become over our past several decades of planned political piracy and mismanagement by what has become a de facto Hartford-Fairfield County “privateer” political operation describable in this context as a dynasty handed down over generations of political operatives and powerbrokers. (It isn’t even that hard to think of family names co-mingled in business and politics in these parts, over the decades, in this regard.)

    No. The proposed sale of Sikorsky Airport, while appearing to be an indicated, pragmatic move, is anything but. It fits into an evil pattern that describes the dismantling of Bridgeport by way of the short sale of its future. (While it also serves to tip the hand of our City Hall card players in regard to the real financial condition and financial projections of the city. The whole idea our financial condition is “stable” is indeed the stuff of the piles amassed on stable floors.)

    This proposed act of piracy of Bridgeport’s future must be thoroughly vetted even as it is completely derailed.

    Enough is enough.

    Local Eyes for Bridgeport Airport Manager!

  • Common Good

    Stratford is hypocritical. Both Fed Ex and UPS are in Stratford solely because of the Airport. If CAA doesn’t buy it, give or sell it to Stratford. Another example of Bpt footing the bill for the benefit of surrounding communities.

  • Tom White

    Does anyone recall when Sikorsky Airport had regular commercial passenger service? I used direct flights to Chicago and Boston for business. There were flights to Philadelphia.

    What happened? Technology and changes in the airline industry.

    Sikorsky does not accommodate the aircraft airlines now use because the runway length and changes in the hub system made Sikorsky Airport unnecessary.

    UPS and FedEx are in Stratford because of I-95. Their hub is at Bradley Airport.

    Sikorsky is now a general aviation airport, is not a revenue generator and should not be subsidized by overtaxed Bridgeport property owners.

  • Grin Ripper

    There are many caveats to a sale. One is the structure in a private sale that the FAA would want a huge piece of the action for improvement repayments. State sale makes most cents.

    • Bob Walsh

      It makes more sense if you are a shill for the Ganim Administration.
      I had plenty of conversations with the former Airport Manager and he constantly maintained a sale made no cents whatsoever.
      But then again the former manager isn’t Airport Manager anymore so maybe now it makes perfect cents. He won’t lose his job if there is a sale.

  • Bob Walsh

    A couple of million bucks??? Are you kidding me?
    The city can negotiate with the state but if there is any bonded debt on the airport then all debt must be retired first with the proceeds from the sale.
    That is unless Bond Counsel creates another loophole that says the city doesn’t have to.
    So if we follow GAAP there will be no impact on the city budget except for stopping the budgetary bleeding.

  • Bob Walsh

    At the same time the city is negotiating with the state it should issue an RFP for a private operator and/or sale. I am not in favor of privatizing services but if the city keeps the airport and breaks even that might be the best scenario. Or gets a legitimate offer for sale, at least we will have more leverage to use with negotiations with the state.

  • Bob Walsh

    This is a fire sale and we don’t know whom the chief beneficiary is. Tommy Mac and the council had better not get sucked into this deal.

  • Frank Gyure

    Why are we getting such warm and fuzzy feelings about a city-owned entity that has done nothing and contributed nothing over multiple decades to the betterment of the region and more specifically, the owner of the property, the city of Bridgeport and the taxpayers of Bridgeport? I think the issue Bob Walsh brought up as to the collateral costs of this long-standing albatross around the necks of the people of Bridgeport needs to be accounted for. Dealing with Stratford has been a continuous pain in the ass. A municipality the size of Bridgeport has ZERO need to deal with owning and operating an airport. The government of Bridgeport has its hands full with community safety, public works (sanitation etc.) and economic development. Even NYC airports are not run by NY CITY, the airports are run by STATE associated entities; the MTA–Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is a multi-state entity. Only the State of CT has the ability to have and use the resources to possibly make any type of success of this airport. Some people still have some notion that this under-used transportation resource will have some type of miraculous resurrection but are also are advising to turn our back on a train station on the East Side of Bridgeport although we are seeing huge increases in train use between every single community on the Metro-North Line. The same people are blind to the overloaded buses (especially the Coastal Link) which are transporting people throughout the region. Bridgeport needs to rid itself of this decades-long burden. Get rid of the airport.

  • Jeff Kohut

    Frank: Any city capable of mustering at least one functional municipal brain shouldn’t have any trouble coming up with a viable plan to utilize such an incredible, city-owned ASSET like Sikorsky Memorial Airport as a major, continual revenue generator. (Don’t just think “Airport,” think ONE SQUARE MILE of ideally located, tax-free land.) To sell this incredible ASSET in a one-shot deal to help balance the broken budget of a broken city is just criminally stupid, but with plenty of precedent. Such corruption-based stupidity has become part of Bridgeport’s shameful modern heritage. Truly, the state political establishment and its community of connected developers and contractors are always looking for an opportunity to instigate a Bridgeport asset “fire sale.” R. L. Scinto, SHU, D’Addario Industries, et al. are sure to be eyeballing Sikorsky Memorial Airport, and more than likely lobbying their state “pocket politicians” in this regard, for a “piece of the action.” Where do you think the idea came from in the first place? From our out-of-the-box “thinkers” in City Hall and Hartford?!

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