Q. Why save this building? It can't handle today's passenger demands and security requirements, etc.
A. First of all, let's be clear. We're not proposing to save all of Terminal 3. We're only advocating to save the original 1960 "Flying Saucer." There are several reasons we would like to see this building saved. It is historically and architecturally relevant. It is visually unique. And it can be adapted for re-use.
With respect to the passenger load and security requirement issue, we're not insisting the building continue to be used as a terminal, although it would make a great head house to a more modern terminal, or as part of a connecting walkway between Terminals 2 and 4. It can become part of new construction later, as was done at Terminal 5 with the TWA Flight Center. It can also just become a public building and house a museum, restaurants, bars, stores, aircraft observation and more and not handle any passengers at all.
With respect to the 1970s expansion, while it is interesting in its own regard, it has limited architectural and historic value. However, we're not insisting it be demolished. Delta has stated it needs ramp parking and the 655,000 sq. ft. of space it takes up can certainly accommodate several aircraft. However, if Delta plans to move all of its regional operations to another 75,000 sq. ft. expansion added to its new T4 facility, why keep Terminal 2? Why not make Terminal 2 the space for ramp parking? When Terminal 3 becomes vacant, the Port Authority has the opportunity to completely reconfigure it and offer international facilities to airlines requiring lower cost operations. It's still a viable terminal if reconfigured properly and has customs and immigration capabilities.
Q. The Port Authority already spent a lot of money saving the TWA Terminal, which should be enough for everyone. Why save another old terminal?
A. Yes, we hear this one a lot. Many people believe the TWA Flight Center was the one to save. It was designed by a famous architect, Eero Saarinen, and looks cooler. We agree the TWA Flight Center looks cool and Saarinen was brilliant. But a famous architect shouldn't be the only reason for saving a building. It can also possess enough historical and cultural significance to be considered important enough to be saved. In fact, the criteria for judging a historic place in the National Register takes this into consideration. If a building stands on its own architecturally and historically and demonstrates a high level of integrity, it can be considered for the Register.
Though it no longer exists, Pan Am was arguably the country's most influential airline and was historically and culturally important in its own right. The fact that the terminal was built by Pan Am and is one of the only remaining airport buildings built by the airline intensifies its importance. The terminal boasts many industry "firsts" and was the site of many historic and cultural events over the years. So we feel that even though the TWA Flight Center is an architectural marvel designed by a renown architect, the Pan Am terminal is also visually impressive, architecturally innovative and representative of the Jet Age and of Mid-Century Modernism, and actually outweighs the TWA Flight Center with respect to the number of cultural and historic events that took place there.
People come to New York City for many reasons, and some of those reasons include vacations and tourism. New York City is famous for so many things, including its rich history and architecture. The experience can start at the airport. Why not save some of the airport's most distinctive buildings as further testament to New York's history and culture?
Q. Preservationist groups always want to save all these old buildings. They impede progress, and love to spend other people's money. Plus the Saucer building is falling apart. Who's going to foot the bill for all the work you're proposing?
A. This another question we hear often, and rightfully so. First of all, we are not trying to impede progress. JFK International is one of the world's busiest airports and so security, efficiency and convenience are all at the top of the list. Plus, we understand space at JFK is limited and needs to be put to good use. So we wouldn't be fighting to save this building if we didn't think it was important enough.
Although many of the original Terminal City buildings have already been demolished and replaced (most recently Terminal 6, formerly the National Sundrome), the Port Authority actually has a decent track record for preservation. They moved and restored the first passenger terminal at Newark Liberty. They saved and restored the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia. And of course, they are very proud of the TWA Flight Center. So it's not beyond the Port Authority's interest to preserve important buildings, and they've proven that they are willing to make investments to do so. So we feel that the Saucer terminal is another such example that is important enough historically, architecturally and culturally to be saved and invested in to keep it running.
The unfortunate issue is that unlike the TWA Flight Center that stood empty for a decade before being restored, Delta Air Lines still has a lease on the property and therefore has a high degree of influence on its immediate future. While we feel there is a high level of association to Pan Am's history attached to the terminal, it has become part of Delta's history also, and we hope they will want to invest in renovating it as well.
The building isn't actually falling apart, otherwise the City would have pulled its Certificate of Occupancy long ago. Rather, it's been neglected over the years for several reasons. Delta has wanted to get out of Terminal 3 for quite a while, and despite a few renovations over the years, has anticipated moving and figured why keep spending money on a terminal if they're moving out soon. Secondly, the Saucer building is not easy to work in while it's actively processing passengers, so over the years it has only been patched up but never fully renovated.
So, yes, it will cost millions and take several years to and restore and re-purpose it, but we feel it is a worthy investment in the history and the future of the airport. Another criticism we get is that public funds shouldn't be used to pay for saving and restoring the building. We've never said public money should be used, but interestingly, public money will be used to demolish it. The Port Authority is seeking over $200 million in federal funding from the Federal Aviation Administration in the form of PFCs (passenger facility charges) to pay for demolition and repaving. PFCs are fees tacked onto every commercial airline ticket whether you like it or not, and are used to pay for airport improvement projects. So guess what, if you fly commercially in the USA, you're ALREADY paying to get rid of it. So why not use public money to restore it instead?
A private developer interested in preservation and adaptive re-use could assume the lease on the building and use private funding to invest in its restoration. A museum, for example, receives funding through private donations, endowments, gift shop sales, admission costs, and so on, so we feel with the right plan, the building can be put to good use and make money. Another example is if Delta does not want to keep the building, another airline might be interested in redeveloping Terminal 3 and using the Saucer as a head house. So you get the idea. To cite urban activism journalist Jane Jacobs, "Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings."
Q: Why is the campaign called "Save the Worldport" or "Save the Pan Am Worldport" if Delta occupies it now? And doesn't "Worldport" mean the entire Terminal 3?
A. The problem is that the terminal has had many names during its lifetime: The Pan Am Terminal; The Pan Am Unit Terminal Building or UTB; The Pan Am Worldport, Flying Saucer; Umbrella; Parasol; JFK Terminal 3, Delta Terminal 3, etc. So since "Worldport" is probably the most memorable name for the terminal and it also recalls its association with Pan Am, we stuck with that. We're not out to disrespect Delta. In fact, for a while, the terminal was actually called the Delta Flight Center, though that name didn't stick for very long. We just think "Worldport" is catchy and that's what many people remember it as. The Facebook page was started as "Save the Pan Am Worldport," and although we wanted to change it to drop the "Pan Am," Facebook will not allow the name to be edited once it receives a certain number of likes. Even though the trademarked name "Worldport" was used after the 1973 extension was completed, we do only advocate for the original Flying Saucer section (though as we've said before, would not be opposed to saving the entire terminal if it could be revamped and reused as well.)