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Biden, Cuomo announce revitalization of borough’s airports

By Alex Robinson

Vice President Joe Biden came to Queens Monday to announce an ambitious revitalization for LaGuardia Airport, which he recently compared to a “third world country.”

The vice president joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo to kick off a design competition that will seek to completely renovate four of the state’s aging airports, including JFK and LaGuardia.

“It’s unacceptable LaGuardia has the worst passenger service in the world,” Biden said in a hangar at Vaughn College, at 86-01 23rd Ave.

Biden criticized the state of LaGuardia in February, saying “If I blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you must think, ‘I must be in some third world country.’”

He maintained on Monday that while the amenities of the airport are deplorable, the staff is first rate.

“Your emphasis, Mr. Vice President, on infrastructure and transportation and your long-held belief that infrastructure is the key to economic development in this nation is exactly right,” Cuomo said to Biden. “We’ve heard it in New York. We’ve heard your message and we’re acting on it.”

The revitalization project will work within airports’ existing physical framework to bring them “into the 21st century,” Cuomo said. The plan will also improve amenities at both airports and could incorporate new transit links to LaGuardia via the Long Island Rail Road and a possible new ferry service.

The competition will start within 30 days and applicants will then have 60 days to submit designes. Three finalist will be selected shortly after that and will each win $5,000.

The winning design will be built in conjunction with a $3.6 billion Port Authority plan to renovate LaGuardia’s central terminal. The new central terminal project is already in the works and will continue as planned, Cuomo said.

Cuomo announced he was taking control of the terminal redevelopment projects well as construction plans at JFK in his annual address at the beginning of the year.

When asked by a reporter how he will balance Queens’ residents’ concerns about airplane noise with the new project, Cuomo said “that is going to be one of the questions. I’m a Queens boy. I understand the issue. The airports are not going to leave. So the issue of airport noise is going to be here and it’s something we’ll have to deal with throughout the process.”

The Stewart International Airport in Newburgh and Long Island’s Republic Airport are also set to be redeveloped as part of the plan and their renovation will allow for them to take more cargo shipments, reducing the burden on the airports in Queens, Cuomo said earlier.

The governor did not say how much the project could potentially cost as the designs would first need to be chosen and finalized.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobi‌nson@‌cnglo‌cal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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