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Author Topic: "Unusual Planning Duel Over Kennedy Terminal"
twasdq
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Thursday, November 28, 2002

Unusual Planning Duel Over Kennedy Terminal
By DAVID W. DUNLAP
The New York (NY) Times


THE 40th anniversary of Eero Saarinen's breathtaking T.W.A. Flight Center at
Kennedy International Airport was marked this year in an unusual way. No
cake. No candles. Just lights out. The terminal was shut down.

Whether it ever reopens - and how it will be used if it does - is at stake
in a planning duel with a curious twist. Airport authorities say the
sinuous, sculptural building might find new life as a restaurant, conference
center or museum. Preservationists say it should stay an airline terminal.

In fact, the Municipal Art Society is proposing the addition of new
concourses and gates to the landmark Saarinen structure, an expansion that
would require the demolition of the former National Airlines Sundrome
nearby, a less celebrated but still distinguished building designed by I. M.
Pei.

"This preserves Saarinen's ideas of entry and vista," said Frank E. Sanchis
III, executive director of the society, speaking of a conceptual plan
prepared by H3 Architecture. "The integrity of his vision is maintained."

Theo Prudon, the president of Docomomo U.S., which concerns itself with the
conservation of modern architecture, said, "For a building like this to be
viable - viable both philosophically and, frankly, economically - it has to
have an airline use."

When preservationists urge that a building's intent and function be
safeguarded along with its physical shell, and when some of them are
prepared to trade a Pei for a Saarinen, one can safely say that a corner has
been turned. Even in a building where you'd be hard pressed to find a
corner.

Unlike the battle over Pennsylvania Station, which reached a climax in 1962
just as the T.W.A. Flight Center opened, there is no proposal on the table
to demolish the structure, at least not the main building, now designated
Terminal 5, with its spread-eagle concrete roof and tubular corridors.

"We remain committed to protecting Terminal 5," said Pasquale DiFulco, a
spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, "and enhancing
its role as an airport centerpiece."

But the authority is also adamant that a terminal designed in an era of
Constellations and built at the dawn of the 707 jetliner is "inadequate to
meet passenger, baggage and security standards required for contemporary
aviation operations."

No airline has stepped forward to request the terminal since American
Airlines abandoned it in January, Mr. DiFulco said. (Trans World Airlines
ended operations there in October 2001 after it was acquired by American.)

The future outlined by the authority involves an enormous new C-shaped
terminal around the Saarinen building, for the use of several airlines,
JetBlue Airways among them. The number of gates would grow to 51 from the
current 37.

The Saarinen building would be rehabilitated. But it would also be cut off,
physically and visually, from the aircraft and view of the taxiways and
runways. The two remote gate areas, one of which is covered by the city's
landmark designation, would be demolished. The connector tubes would then
join the new terminal to the Saarinen building.

Exactly how the Saarinen building would be adapted has yet to be determined.
The Port Authority plans to issue a request for proposals in the coming
months.

It must also demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration that there
are no prudent, feasible alternatives to its redevelopment plan, under a
federal law known as Section 4(f) requiring that transportation projects do
not adversely affect historic sites.

This has given the Municipal Art Society some leverage in the process. It
submitted its counterproposal to the F.A.A. last month. "We think it's
feasible and prudent," said Vicki Weiner, director of historic preservation
at the society.

Drawn up by Hal Hayes of H3 and four airport planners, the plan would
preserve the remote gate areas, from which new concourses would telescope.
It would append a large new structure to one end of the Saarinen building,
with another concourse. All told, it would create 52 gates.

LIKE the Port Authority plan, it would require the demolition of the former
Sundrome, now Terminal 6, which is used by JetBlue. The authority has only
recently received the Municipal Art Society plan and is not yet prepared to
respond publicly, Mr. DiFulco said.

While many landmarks no longer serve their original purpose, there is
something satisfying about those that do, from City Hall to Grand Central
Terminal.

Grand Central may be an instructive analogy to the T.W.A. Flight Center.
After all, it is no longer the "Gateway to a Continent" but a suburban
commuter rail station. That does not make it any less imposing or vital.

No amount of nostalgia will bring back the days of dressing up for air
travel and eating in-flight meals with silverware. But travelers could still
revel in Saarinen's soaring spaces. The question is, where would they go
from there?


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Glasspilot
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Such a sad story. I flew many flights out of this terminal from 1988 (when I was hired at TWA) to late Oct. 2001 (when I was kicked out by AA to "central america"). My opinion is this building was great in it's time but very impractical for efficent use as a airline terminal in the 21st century. If some groups think the TWA International terminal should be saved I would suggest dismantling it and moving it and make it a museum. The land on JFK airport is much too valuable to use a large portion of it as a "landmark".

Just my opinion,

Glass


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dragitin
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It's too bad that air travel has deteriorated to ambiance of bus travel . . . . but that's what the public wants.
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TWA Fan 1
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From a passenger's point of view I can say I always thrilled to step foot in the TWA Terminal at JFK. From a utilitarian point of view my only complaint was the small size of waiting areas at the gates.

Otherwise, it was not any less practical from a passenger's standpoint than any other terminal. The ticketing counter may have been in need of a slight renovation but there was enough space to wait on line comfortably.

And the architecture did make the experience much more enjoyable, from the breathtaking main building with its soaring wing-like structure to the satellite tubes that were so evocative of sixties modernism.

Of the terminals currently in use around the NYC area the JFK Delta Terminal is easily the least practical, while the Newark Continental Terminal C can be overwhelming because of the sheer volume of people passing through it.

I certainly hope that T5 is resurrected as a functioning airline terminal so that a new generation of passengers can be reminded of the time when air travel could actually be inspiring.


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Jeff Isenberg
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My first thought in seeing this article last week in the NY Times was that, although I've always loved the Saarinen structure, that I might be OK with retiring it as a functional terminal. The rendering of the C-shaped terminal that would be built outward looked decent as it sort of kept with the flow of the existing structure. That ... coupled with other thoughts that perhaps I didn't really want to see another airline become primary tenant of what will always be, in most people's minds, the "TWA Terminal," left me initially persuaded that I could live with this proposal as long as the structure stays intact.

Now I'm not so sure. In fact, TWA did spend about 10 million bucks a couple years ago to update the luggage conveyors and other infrastructure related to that (Perception22 - correct me if I've understated that figure). Also, other improvements were made to the terminal. With some deeper pockets doing the financing, I actually think T5 could be made into a functioning terminal that would keep the beauty and thought behind the original design and modernize the ancillary facilities to accommodate current jet fleets, passenger flow, etc.

I don't know, I think we've seen too many great structures demolished in the past in a flurry of short-sighted thinking that we've lived to regret. I realize none of the active proposals intend to demolish T5, however, by keeping it a functioning terminal I think one carries on the lifeblood and intent. It is, after all, only 40 years old. As we've seen with great rail terminals of the past, the ones that have been updated and continue to function (Grand Central, DC's Union Station, etc.) seem to carry much more impact than the great terminals that have been solely converted to shopping malls.

As to a new tenant for T5, I think I could live with that as long as there might be sufficient signage that commemorates the building as the "TWA Terminal from 1962-2001."

Enough of my musing and pontificating. I'd love to hear thoughts from other TWA'ers.

Jeff I.


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rampguy
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How sad. After celebrating 35yrs this past august, my only regret is that I never made the trip to NY to see the structure first hand.
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Ronky in BOS
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Rampguy, go to JFK and see it now, even if you can only see it from the outside. Also, get a copy of the book "The TWA Terminal" by Ezra Stoller. It's part of the Building Blocks series of books from Princeton Architectural Press. Well worth it. Has photos from the first days of it's opening.
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rampguy
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Thanks for the info. I may do just that.
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donuway
Post Captain
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quote:
Originally posted by dragitin:
It's too bad that air travel has deteriorated to ambiance of bus travel . . . . but that's what the public wants.

dragitin,

Although I know very well that air travel isnt what it used to be in terms of ambiance, I must ask,,,,,Have you been in a Greyhound terminal lately? I have sent a few people to pick up vehicles by Greyhound, two in the last two months as a matter of fact. In STL just before a bus is ready to board, it isn't a pretty sight And in the summertime, I'd take the "aroma" in any airport over a bus station!

To put problems with this industry in perspective though, it doesn't cost 10 times as much to get somewhere 10 times as fast. If I had time to plan, I probably could have had the person to Buffalo for only 2-3 times as much by air, if that.

Don

[ 12-06-2002: Message edited by: donuway ]


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Kenneth
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If anyone's interested ...

One place you can still see the TWA emblem in plain sight:

Philadelphia International, Terminal E, Gate 10

TW had used Gates 8 and 10 a/b/c in Terminal E; operations have merged with AA's multiple gates in Terminal A. The TW signage inside is covered up with tarps and the ticket counter has been taken over and redone by ATA (which now uses Gate 8 exclusively), however it appears AA is still using Gate 10 ... not for passengers but to park planes. Saw 2 AA jets parked there on Monday night and the TWA signage on the jetways was still in plain sight.

It was nice to see, brought back a couple memories.

Ken


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upgrade lover
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Hi Folks!
Just attended a screening of Steven Speilberg's latest film "Catch Me If You Can" Starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. There are some fantastic scenes in our beloved terminal 5 at JFK. This film was shot after the closing of the terminal and It has never looked better. The film is a delight and it opens on Christmas day. When it is released to home video it will definately be a "keeper" for all of us who loved TWA.
Warmest wishes to all during this holiday season.

John


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robw
Fourm Captain
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well, I will be going through JFK on wednesday, and it is sure going to be strange to see the closed terminal. I picked a JFK connection on AA too see for myself.

Sigh...so many great memories


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Jeff Isenberg
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Hi Rob -

I don't know when you were last at JFK, but it is indeed quite different these days. The construction of the train system has completely changed the feel of things at JFK from being a wide open area of terminals to one in which things now have a much more "closed in" feel to it. I dare say that even if T5 was still a functioning terminal, the feel would be very different once you set foot outside the terminal.

I'm not saying the new construction is a bad thing. Clearly, JFK has desperately needed alternate transportation into the airport due to the frequent and worsening traffic on the Belt Pkwy and Van Wyck. But .... the character of the airport has changed significantly. Also, AA's terminals and traffic right now are horrendous. I eagerly await the opening of their new facility.

Anyway, safe travels and blue skies. Hope you are doing well these days.

Jeff I.


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TWAnr
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quote:
Originally posted by upgrade lover:
Hi Folks!
Just attended a screening of Steven Spielberg's latest film "Catch Me If You Can" Starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. There are some fantastic scenes in our beloved terminal 5 at JFK.

I just saw the movie. Just about all of the airport and in flight scenes prominently feature TWA, its airplanes, pilots and hostesses. The one time that I recall hearing the mention of American Airlines was at this particular location.

It is a great movie for all those who are nostalgic about TWA and Pan American. The story line itself is quite good as well, even for those who are familiar with the real life events on which the movie is based.


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Jeff Isenberg
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TWAnr -

Thanks very much for the post. Now I know what will be included in my coming weekend plans. I may have to wear my TWA hat that PERCEPTION22 gave me to the movie.

Thanks again.

Jeff I.


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Jeff Isenberg
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webmoonchild
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Great picture. It makes me homesick!!
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TWAnr
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Jeff,

It is a great web site, but the image which you tried to post did not show because you used the URL of the page as opposed to the URL of the photo. You can always find the latter by right clicking on the picture and selecting properties from the drop down menu.

Here is the URL to the first page of the site:
TWA Terminal, JFK Airport, Eero Saarinen, and my favorite photo:


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Jeff Isenberg
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TWAnr -

Thanks for the help ...... and for posting the link and photo from what is a great site for T5 lovers.

Jeff I.


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