Delta Air Lines Poised to Make History – by Demolishing It

 Delta Air Lines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jerseycontinue unrelentingly in their mission to flatten the historic JFK Terminal 3 Worldport into an airplane parking lot, but many believe leveling the iconic building is terribly short-sighted.

Using data freely available online, advocacy group Save the Worldport argues that renovating, instead of demolishing the famous saucer-shaped rotunda, will improve the airport, foster economic growth, and create hundreds of jobs, many permanent. Many jobs were eliminated as a result of Terminal 3 closing, most of which were not directly replaced at Delta’s new $1.2 billion Terminal 4. Delta claims that 200 jobs will be created during demolition and redevelopment, but neglects to mention those jobs are only temporary.

The group and over 160 supporters crowdfunded a protest ad in the New York Times, urging citizens, including employees and shareholders, to challenge Delta and the Port Authority’s justifications for destroying the Jet Age icon.

The Worldport was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as an endangered historic place, making the case for rescue even stronger.

But a credible source working at the site confirmed Delta underhandedly ordered demolition crews to begin wrecking the building the following Sunday morning to discourage further preservation efforts.

Delta risks continued PR backlash in the wake of demolition, but still has time to turn things around, the group suggests. Restoring the building will not only enhance the airport and create jobs, but will demonstrate Delta’s commitment to New York’shistory instead of being forever associated with destroying it. The Port Authority spared the unique TWA terminal, but neither they nor Delta have shown the same regard for the equally significant Worldport.

The airline can easily amend its lease with the Port Authority, setting aside just 3% of space taken by the rotunda’s footprint, yet it insists all 48 acres are needed for aircraft parking. Distinguished airport designer Hal Hayes dismisses the claim as baseless. “They can leave [the rotunda] pretty much where it is and not impact the new terminals or the parking one iota,” Hayes told Architect’s Newspaper in August 2010. Hayes himself proposed reuse of the rotunda in potential redevelopment designs, which Delta and the Port Authority rejected.

Delta recently committed another $175 million for further expansion of T4 to consolidate regional jet operations, but U.S. Customs statistics show that T4 already has the distinction of longest wait times at any U.S. airport, thanks in part to Delta’s hasty decision to transfer its entire T3 operation en masse to T4. This next phase of expansion will further overtax the facility and again stretch the already absurdly long Concourse B. But Save the Worldport suggests a practical alternative: restore the rotunda, demolish the clunky old addition behind it, and build the new regional jet terminal in its place. And even if not reused as a terminal, the rotunda can instead be adapted for other essential airport services.

Though regrettably much of the distinctive elliptical roof has already been stripped, Anthony Stramaglia, the group’s organizer says, “It’s actually the perfect opportunity to restore it like new – or better than new.” Kalev Savi adds, “They’re already spending$175 million, so instead of tacking the RJ expansion onto T4, incorporate it behind a restored rotunda, which will relieve T4 and offer travelers a unique experience instead of just another generic concourse.” Demolishing the nondescript Terminal 2 next door will more than make up for the space.

A tribute has been proposed in lieu of keeping the building, but the group is skeptical. Says Stramaglia, “The tribute has to represent Pan Am’s extraordinary history at JFK. A diorama and some photos simply won’t do it justice. The Worldport itself, including the original Hebald Zodiac, is the ideal tribute.”

Opened in May 1960 as the home of Pan American World Airways, Delta Air Lines acquired the Worldport following Pan Am’s collapse in 1991 and operated it until May 23, 2013. Kalev Savi founded Save the Worldport in August 2010. Today the group is supported by a passionate international community from over 60 countries.