Scott Grimm-Lyon AICP is the Executive Director of GatewayJFK, a public-private partnership in Southeast Queens that focuses on economic development in the Air Cargo Industry. GatewayJFK is home to 600 businesses and 8,000 workers and is a vital part of New York’s 8.6 Billion air cargo sector. Scott has worked for think tanks, including the Center for Collaborative Change and the Schumacher Center for New Economics, business improvement districts, and community-based organizations across the NY metropolitan region.
Scotts specializes in local economic development and has worked on issues including coastal resiliency, affordable housing, foreclosure prevention, business displacement, and developing a riverside greenway. Scott has an MS in City & Regional Planning from the Pratt Institute, is a Coro’s Neighborhood Leadership program graduate, and served as the NYC Section Representative for the American Planning Association from 2012 through 2020.
1 What can airport tenants and managers do to be a great neighbors to the businesses that support airport operations and residents?
Scott Grimm-Lyon: I think airport tenants and managers could do a better job informing the public about the importance of the cargo industry and how it’s a vital part of the airport, both for businesses that are on the tarmac and businesses in our district, which is just off the airport property. Air Cargo is an $8.6 billion dollar industry in the region. It creates many jobs and wealth for New York, but it’s often overshadowed by the passenger side of things. During COVID, the cargo industry really helped keep the airlines and the airport running, and air cargo really enabled global trade and commerce to continue during the pandemic.
Businesses in our neighborhood are helping people get things they use every day, from fish to flowers to pharmaceuticals. If more people that drive down Rockaway Blvd. every day understood what was going on inside of our warehouses, I think it would give them something to take pride in, knowing that the neighborhood is part of this network of distribution that is really improving everyone’s lives.
2 What is the mission of GatewayJFK, and how do you measure the success of its airport community initiatives?
Scott Grimm-Lyon: Our mission is to create a space in New York where our air cargo, logistics, and other businesses can expand, thrive, and be good neighbors. The bulk of our work is dedicated to making the area a clean and safe space so that people who live here, work here, and operate businesses here all have a good quality of life.
We measure success by tracking metrics such as crime, litter, vacancy rates, potholes, and other quality-of-life issues. We love to see our work bear fruit when new businesses find and invest in the area. We also do a fair amount of community and business outreach. Those conversations help us take the temperature of what we’re currently doing and prioritize what we want to do next to help the neighborhood.
3 What kind of issues do you hear most about from the businesses in your represented area?
Scott Grimm-Lyon: We respond to all kinds of issues, including concerns about security and sanitation, and most recently, we’ve responded to calls from employees who have had extremely long wait times during their commute. In all those cases, we’ve created programs that have been able to improve the situation. We have sanitation workers that come in and help clean up the trash and graffiti in the neighborhood; we have a security team that patrols the area and keeps people from drag racing and partying in the middle of the night, and recently we started running a shuttle service to get people to and from Jamaica station more frequently and faster than they could travel before.
4 What are some benefits and plans for the GatewayJFK Business Improvement District?
Scott Grimm-Lyon: Over the last few years, we’ve really focused on helping us develop an infrastructure that will improve the physical environment in the area, including our work related to sanitation and landscaping. We’re going to continue with some of that work by doing things like repainting bollards and fire hydrants, installing planters on Guy R. Brewer Boulevard. and working to put new trees into empty sidewalk areas across the neighborhood.
We also plan to start working on employment and workforce issues in the neighborhood. Our agenda for next year includes developing a jobs board for our website and building relationships between local employers and community development/workforce development organizations in the area. We want to help match local people to local jobs and help support organizations understand what skills and certifications are necessary to so the people they work with are ready to fill positions in the industry.
5 Who are some of the GatewayJFK Business Improvement District partners working towards its success?
Scott Grimm-Lyon: We have a really great board of directors that includes business owners, property owners, local elected officials, and residents and homeowners who live in our community. It’s a big strength to have leaders from all those diverse backgrounds and perspectives steering our agenda. They don’t always see eye to eye on every issue, but when they agree on something, they come together as a coalition, and it’s very powerful. The civically active residents give us a lot of access to decision-makers who sit at the political table, and the businesses that employ a large number of people give us a lot of clout. When they both want the same things to happen and work together, people in power are eager to help us solve those problems.
Fascinating article. Like Mr. Grimm-Lyon said, I never really gave the air cargo side of airlines any thought before reading this article.