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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow Section 106 in Action arrow Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases arrow New York: Redevelopment of John F. Kennedy Airport Terminals 5 and 6, New York
New York: Redevelopment of John F. Kennedy Airport Terminals 5 and 6, New York

Agency: Federal Aviation Administration

Criteria for ACHP Involvement:

  • This project would result in the partial demolition of the TWA Terminal, a unique and exceptionally significant historic property from the recent past (Criterion 1).

  • There is significant controversy regarding the project, which has sparked negative public comment from across America and several foreign countries (Criterion 3).

Recent Developments

In August 2001, ACHP wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to convey questions and concerns regarding the proposed redevelopment of Terminals 5 and 6 at John F. Kennedy Airport and the impact of the project on the historic TWA Terminal. Of principal concern is the fact that the proposed rehabilitation of the historic terminal is not functionally an integral component of the new terminal development, coupled with the lack of a funding commitment for rehabilitation from the project sponsor, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

TWA Terminal 5, JFK Airport, New York, New York



JFK Airport's TWA Terminal 5, designed by Eero Saarinen, New York, New York (photo courtesy of New York Port Authority)


ACHP posed questions regarding the possibility of airline or Port Authority use of the historic building, indicated the need for an aggressive schedule for seeking a new use, and stressed the need for short-term and long-term funding commitments. ACHP also questioned the adequacy of proposed pedestrian access to the historic terminal under the current plan, particularly since previously proposed tunnel access had been dropped from the project.

Also in August, FAA agreed to allow a number of parties to join the Section 106 consultation. Organizations that had requested consulting party status include the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Municipal Art Society of New York, New York City Partnership, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and DOCOMOMO-Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites, and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement.

An initial meeting of the consulting parties was scheduled for September, but was canceled in the wake of the terrorist attack on New York. It remains to be seen how, if at all, the impact of that event on the airline industry will affect the scope or timetable of this project. The meeting of the consulting parties has been rescheduled for late October 2001.


To address operational and capacity deficiencies at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the Port Authority proposes major redevelopment at Terminals 5 and 6. Terminal 5, the TWA Terminal, dates from 1962 and was designed by noted architect Eero Saarinen. With its wing-like, vaulted roof and curvilinear interior elements, the building is a masterpiece of modern expressionistic architecture.

The main building is connected to two satellite gate structures—known as flight wings—by two raised, oval connector tubes. The property has been determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, despite being less than 50 years old, because of its exceptional significance.

The Port Authority proposes to build a large new terminal behind the historic terminal and on the site of adjacent Terminal 6. This would require demolition of the TWA Terminal's flight wings, only one of which (the earliest) is considered historic, but the connector tubes would be retained and would tie into the new building. While road access would be retained in front of the historic building, a new tiered roadway would be built behind the building to access the new terminal. A new parking garage would be built across the street from the historic terminal.

Although much of the historic building would be retained, it would be isolated from the airfield and would (as currently proposed) have no direct airport use. The Port Authority proposes that the historic terminal be adaptively used and restored, including removal of all unoriginal additions. No use has been identified, however, although use as a conference center has been suggested.

It was originally anticipated that the building would continue to be used as a terminal during the phased construction of the new facility, providing time to seek a new use. However, the recent acquisition of TWA by American Airlines means that flights will cease at the building as of January 2002, earlier than originally expected.

Initiation of the proposed redevelopment requires approval by FAA to change the airport's Airport Layout Plan, thus triggering review under Section 106. The Port Authority entered into consultation with the New York State Historic Preservation Office, which led to a number of important project modifications. As a result, the entire connector tubes will be retained, which was not originally proposed, and the new terminal has been reduced in height and moved further from the historic main terminal building. Mitigation measures addressing maintenance, protection, and reuse of the building were developed.

Following an investigation letter from ACHP, FAA formally notified ACHP of the project, leading to ACHP's entry into consultation. At about the same time, formal efforts to solicit public input were launched, resulting in comments from citizens across the country and internationally who voiced concerns about the project's impacts.

Staff contact: Druscilla Null

Updated June 6, 2002

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