2017-12-06 / Book Review

The Building Of Kennedy Airport Thoroughly Explored In New Book


“The Metropolitan Airport: JFK International and Modern New York” by Nicholas Dagen Bloom available from the University of Pennsylvania Press (248 pp. w/illustrations, $39.95, available on Amazon.com). “The Metropolitan Airport: JFK International and Modern New York” by Nicholas Dagen Bloom available from the University of Pennsylvania Press (248 pp. w/illustrations, $39.95, available on Amazon.com). In Nicholas Dagen Bloom’s book, “The Metropolitan Airport: JFK International and Modern New York,” the author explores the history of one of New York City’s most successful and influential redevelopment projects. Built by legendary New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, famed urban planner Robert Moses and Port Authority Executive Director Austin Tobin, John F. Kennedy International Airport was fantastically expensive and unprecedented in its scale. By the late 1940s, once-polluted marshlands had become home to one of the worlds busiest and most advanced airfields. Almost from the start, however, environmental activists in surrounding neighborhoods and suburbs clashed with the Port Authority. These fierce battles in the long term restricted growth and, compounded by lackluster management and planning, diminished JFK’s status and reputation. Yet the airport remained a key contributor to metropolitan vitality: New Yorkers bound for adventure and business still boarded planes headed to distant corners of the globe, billions of tourists and immigrants came and went, and mammoth air cargo facilities bolstered the region’s commerce.

In “The Metropolitan Airport,” Bloom chronicles the untold story of JFK International’s complicated and turbulent relationship with the New York City metropolitan region. In spite of its reputation for snarled traffic, epic delays, endless construction, and abrasive employees, the airport was a key player in shifting patterns of labor, transportation, and residence; the airport both encouraged and benefited from the dispersion of population and economic activity to the outer boroughs and suburbs. As Bloom shows, airports like JFK are vibrant parts of their cities and powerfully influence urban development. “The Metropolitan Airport” is an indispensable book for those who wish to understand the revolutionary impact of airports on the modern American city.

The book includes numerous archival photographs and educates the reader on little known facts including the history of the Fliteseer tram which provided guided tours of Idlewild Aiport (JFKs former name before it was re-christened after President Kennedy one month after his assassination) for only fifty-cents for a twenty minute tour. There is also the history of the Chapel Plaza, an area of interfaith houses of worship for the JFK community and also the building of the TWA terminal soon to be reborn as a five star hotel.

Bloom is Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies and Urban Administration at the New York Institute of Technology is also author of “Public Housing That Worked: New York in the Twentieth Century,” also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

—Jason D. Antos

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