NEW YORK – A 30-year lease was recently signed between ARK Development LLC, an affiliate of leading real estate company Racebrook Capital, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to develop, finance, construct, operate and manage The ARK at JFK – a $48-million, 178,000-sq.-ft. animal handling and intelligent air cargo facility.
The ARK will reportedly be the world’s only privately owned animal handling cargo terminal and USDA-approved, full-service 24-hour airport quarantine facility for the import and export of livestock, horses, pets and birds.

Plans call for building this facility at the current site of Cargo Building 78 at JFK, with 14.4 acres of surrounding ground area, which includes direct airside access to the taxiway and large aircraft ramp parking. It will be divided into three complementary sections: the air cargo wing, a central administrative and business center with 24-hour veterinary hospital – and the main animal handling facility with pet boarding, animal import and export center and livestock export handling system.
“We developed The Ark concept to address the unmet needs for the import and export of companion, sporting and agricultural animals,” said John Cuticelli Jr., The ARK at JFK Founder and Racebrook chairman “The animal terminal will set new international airport standards for comprehensive veterinary, kenneling and quarantine services.”

Anticipated to cost $48 million, this project is expected to create more than 180 jobs and generate revenues for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey estimated at $108 million during the project’s 30-year lease. The completed facility is expected to significantly increase cargo throughput at the airport.

“ARK’s investment of $48 million into JFK will transform an airport structure that has been vacant for nearly 10 years into a world-class specialty cargo facility, and the agreement guarantees the Port Authority more than $100 million in revenue without any additional capital investment,” said Pat Foye, Port Authority executive director.

“The Air Cargo industry at JFK is an important component of New York City’s greater economy, directly responsible for over 17,000 jobs, and The ARK at JFK will help bolster JFK’s competitive advantage as an international air cargo gateway, a major New York City Economic Development Corporation priority,” added Jeffrey Lee, executive director of Build NYC.

The ARK at JFK was designed by leading architects, designers and engineers, including master architect Gensler, equine-specialty architect Gralla Equine Architects (GH2), construction manager Holt and Grandin Livestock Handling Systems (GLHS), with guidance from Cornell Univ.’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the US Department of Agriculture.

The ARK at JFK represents an enormous leap forward in the care and comfort of horses and cattle that travel through the airport, said Lachlan Oldaker, RA, Specialty Practice Leader/Senior Equine Architect, GH2 Gralla Equine Architects. “The design allows planes to taxi directly to the building, so horses can be transported in a seamless fashion that reduces stress,” she added.
The cattle handling facility is designed for optimal ease. “This really is a worry-free, one-stop shop for passengers and animals, thanks to the various on-site offerings, including Paradise 4 Paws, an aviary and a veterinarian,” she added.

The ARK at JFK will provide both airside and landside services to board, kennel, quarantine, import, export and transport large and small animals. Other services will include transportation in dedicated climate-controlled vehicles from aircraft, terminals, cargo facilities and other airport locations. A livestock export handling system designed by Dr. Temple Grandin, the leading authority on humane livestock handling and a long-time MEAT+POULTRY contributing editor, will allow for the safe and efficient handling of cattle, goats, pigs and sheep from truck to aircraft.

“We are excited to partner with Racebrook on such a monumental and visionary project that will utterly transform the way other airports approach their animal handling responsibilities,” said Mike Duffy, CEO of Consolidated Aviation Services. CAS will serve as the exclusive ground handler for the ARK and Sky team, including Air France, the French flag carrier headquartered in Tremblay-en-France; Alitalia, the national airline of Italy; and KLM, the flag carrier airline of The Netherlands.

One key component of The ARK at JFK will be veterinary services available 24/7, 365 days per year, including general medicine, emergency, critical care, internal medicine, surgery and advanced diagnostics provided by LIFECARETM, a new veterinary hospital system committed to providing the most advanced medical care options and treatments to pets across the country.

“We are excited to embark upon such a game-changing development, which will revolutionize the care of animals in an aviation environment,” said Dr. Aaron Perl, founder and managing sirector of The ARK at JFK and General Counsel of The Racebrook Portfolio Companies. “We are proud to have brought together one of the most prestigious project development teams in the field to bring this vision to life.”
At present, JFK Airport occasionally handles livestock shipments ranging in size from 180 to 200 head of cattle via special charter planes. “But we have gotten a lot of inquiries over the past two years — as logistically and care-wide, this will be a major improvement,” a project spokeswoman told

The spokeswoman doesn’t anticipate meat packers will utilize this facility. “The new facilities will be used primarily to replenish and restock foreign herds and dairy livestock”, she concluded.