Following an ABC News report yesterday that TARP-funded bank JPMorgan Chase was proceeding with a $138 million plan to buy two new corporate jets and build a state of the art corporate hangar, Westchester County officials have postponed voting on whether or not the bank will be awarded the lease at the county's airport.
The Westchester Board of Legislators were slated to vote Monday night on the city's recommendation that JPMorgan be awarded the 30-year lease starting April 1, 2010, at a cost of $1.1 million annually. But Legislator Gordon Burrows "overed" the vote, meaning that board members can now further review the bank's proposal and comments from its main critic, Mike Dolphin, whose company Avitat Westchester would be ousted from the hangar if the lease were given to JPMorgan.
"I think that put the brakes on the whole thing," Dolphin said after the public hearing, of ABC News' report.
Unlike previous county meetings, JPMorgan Chase did not send a representative to speak on its behalf.
Another Westchester legislator, Martin Rogowsky, agreed to meet with Dolphin before the board meets again April 13. But, Rogowsky said, he was ready last night to vote in favor of JPMorgan getting the lease and he believes it would have received enough votes to pass.
"I'm impressed when one of the [JPMorgan] jets takes off for Kuwait and doesn't come back for 10 days," said Rogowsky, adding that because JPMorgan is a corporate tenant, it has "fewer planes, fewer flights" and "less noise" than a company like Avitat, which rents hangar space to a number of different clients.
Joseph Evangelisti, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase told ABC News that the bank would have nine years to make its $18 million in renovations, but the county said that JPMorgan Chase's plans indicate that renovations would be complete within six months of assuming the lease.
Rogowsky also said JPMorgan will "want to be ready to go on day one" when the lease starts next year, because if the hangar isn't ready, the bank will be stuck paying two rents: one at the newly acquired hangar and the other at its current hangar, until the renovations at the hangar in question are finished.
"If they get this lease, they will certainly be ordering some equipment, that takes many months to manufacture," said Rogowsky. "But there won't be any work on the hangar until the lease begins. It's in their economic interest to renovate as quickly as possible."
JPMorgan Chase spokesman Evangelisti said no TARP money would be used to make any payments for new jets or jet hangar improvements. He refused to comment on whether JPMorgan had put a down payment for new planes, saying only that any future jet purchases would be part of its normal aircraft replacement policy, and that JPMorgan Chase will repay all TARP money before it makes any payments for new planes or renovations.
At the public hearing, Dolphin and a handful of his employees urged the board rethink awarding the lease to JPMorgan.
The meeting got heated when the county Director of Real Estate, Sal Carrera, who was responsible for the solicitation of the request for lease proposals, spoke, saying: "The frivolous lawsuits and disingenuous public statements by Mr. Dolphin are the rhetoric of an applicant who submitted an inadequate proposal."
Carrera said, "The process of review and approval of proposed leases with the county, and in this particular matter, incorporate the best business practices for the welfare of the airport, surrounding area, and most importantly, the county taxpayers."
Legislator Rogowsky, however, said that taxpayers won't benefit because "money earned at the airport stays at the airport."
Carrera refused to speak ABC News after the hearing.