Could New York’s JFK Airport Become The Next Aerotropolis?

The poor state of New York City area airports is no secret. Every year, John F. Kennedy Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Newark Airport combine for the trifecta of worst ranked airports on a global scale. To help elevate the regions dismal airports from worst to first, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has tasked the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to host a contestseeking fresh ideas for new airport master plans. The comprehensive master plans look to address passenger needs from 2050 and beyond, encompassing everything from better transit access, baggage handling, to cargo operations, to infrastructure, and much more.

Around the world, airport mega hubs in cities like Dubai in United Arab Emirates and Doha in Qatar have become economic powerhouses, leaving airports in the United States behind in the dust. Through the creation of a new master plan, the Port Authority hopes to put itself in a position to better compete.

Most interestingly, the design competition for JFK asks competitors to incorporate an “Aerotropolis,” or “Airport City,” into the plan. This concept calls for office complexes, conference and training centers, medical facilities, along with additional industrial and warehousing facilities in addition to traditional airport fixtures. This plan is nothing short of ambitious, clearly setting Dubai’s new World Central airport and others like it square in its sights. However, there would be significant hurdles in building anything along those lines in New York.

The sprawling Dubai World Central airport  in the United Arab Emirates. (Credit:

Where other airport mega projects have succeeded, available real estate has played a major role. Dubai’s new World Central airport was placed south of the city on unused land, while land reclamation was used in Doha. At JFK, the airport grounds are fully contained by neighborhoods on three sides, and federally protected wetlands to the south. Any expansion of the physical boundaries of the airport seems unlikely, meaning any new development would have to be worked into the existing property, which is no easy task. Available space is at a premium at JFK, leaving little room for new construction.


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