Touts First-Class Proposal With Gov. In E. Elm.
Vice President Joe Biden appeared in East Elmhurst on Monday, Oct. 20, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local Queens lawmakers to announce a long-term vision to modernize LaGuardia Airport and other air facilities in New York.
Biden made headlines earlier this year when he compared arriving at LaGuardia Airport to landing in a third-world country. Though Cuomo ribbed the vice president on Monday for that blunt assessment, he agreed that the time had come to overhaul LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports, along with Stewart International Airport in upstate Newburgh and Republic Airport in Farmingdale, L.I.
“I had previously said in my State of the State address at the beginning of the year exactly what the vice president said, phrased somewhat differently,” the governor said, “that the New York airports were outdated and needed fundamental design, because they were not serving New York the way they should.”
Biden hailed the proposal Cuomo outlined, noting that infrastructure improvements are needed not only in New York City but around the country in order to compete and exceed their counterparts across the globe.
“The United States of America ranks 28th in the world among the advanced nations in transportation infrastructure. It’s ridiculous,” the vice president said. “The rest of the world is not standing by; the rest of the world understands changes are taking place.”
“These are economic anchors for this region, and they deserve to be the best in the world,” Biden said of Kennedy and LaGuardia.
Appearing with Cuomo and Biden at the Vaughn Community College of Aeronautics-located a few blocks from LaGuardia Airport-were three of Queens’ Members of Congress-Grace Meng, Carolyn Maloney and Gregory Meeks-along with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Senators Jose Peralta and James Sanders, Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, City Council Member Donovan Richards and Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast and State Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald.
Serving as the “front doors” of New York City to the nation and world, LaGuardia and Kennedy airports accommodated a record 77 million passengers combined last year. But, according to Cuomo, both facilities suffer economically from antiquated facilities and a lack of accessibility.
“Where our airports are decades old, many of the airports around the world are relatively new,” Cuomo said. “Also, the delay in getting [between] the airports and the center of the city is way too long.” He stated it’s about an hour commute to or from either airport regardless of “any option you take.”
“We must modernize our airports if we want to keep our competitive advantage and grow,” he added.
Under the new “Global New York” initiative, Cuomo stated, the state will launch master plan design competitions for both LaGuardia and Kennedy airports. Designers will be asked to present plans with modern ideas within each airport’s existing footprint.
Along with improving customer service, terminals and shopping and dining options, the governor noted, the LaGuardia plan would also seek ways to expand rail service with a Long Island Rail Road link. The Kennedy Airport proposal would seek ways to expand its existing AirTrain system to connect it to local rail lines.
Designers would also be asked to consider potential future expansion of both Kennedy and LaGuardia; Cuomo stated both facilities are far smaller than other airports internationally.
Set to start within 30 days, designers will have up to 60 days to submit their visions for either airports to the state. Once reviewed, the state will provide $500,000 each to three winning groups.
The state will then proceed “to the next step, which would be implementation of their vision.”
Regarding Stewart Airport, Cuomo stated a vision of transforming it into a “cargo distribution center” to reduce the air traffic volume at Kennedy Airport. FedEx and United Parcel Service already fly into and out of Stewart, and the state is seeking ideas from private firms on “how to make the most of Stewart” and promote its development.
The state would seek similar ideas for Republic Airport.
“The more traffic we can take out of JFK and LaGuardia and move toward the island and upstate, if that’s their destination, the better,” the governor said.
Cuomo added he would pursue establishing both airports as a taxfree zone to entice greater business.
Biden stated the plan offers New York with a great opportunity to improve itself and lead the U.S. in a movement toward improving infrastructure.
“We’re on the cusp of a gigantic new opportunity for our kids and our grandkids,” he added. “But absent more investment in our infrastructure, we’ve got a problem.”