After Vice President Joe Biden compared it to a “third-world country,” LaGuardia Airport is getting a much-needed makeover bringing it to the 21st century and allowing New York City to start to once again lead in infrastructure.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was joined by Biden on Monday afternoon to announce that the Queens airport would be receiving a complete redesign taking it from a 1939 airport to a globally renowned, state-of-the-art facility.
“LaGuardia is slow. It’s dated. It’s a terrible front door entranceway to New York. It is a lost opportunity. It’s almost universally decried as a poor representation of an airport let alone a New York airport,” Cuomo said.
Bringing up the vice president’s comments last year that referred to LaGuardia Airport as a “third-world country,” Cuomo said that it served as a wake-up call to a city that at one point in history was leading the way in infrastructure.
“It was a strong, some would say prophetic vision, which I believe in many ways is an impetus to say to New York, ‘Get up, move.’ This is not acceptable and it’s not acceptable for New York,” Cuomo said about Biden’s comment.
In order to tackle the issue of the airport — which passengers have called dirty, cramped, hot and delayed — the governor appointed an advisory panel, led by Dan Tishman, to work with the Port Authority and come up with a new plan for LaGuardia.
After getting together and going over goals and obstacles, the group came up with the plan that would create an entirely new facility, replacing the current airport in its entirety. It would run adjacent to the Grand Central Parkway, 600 feet closer to the parkway than it is now. There would be more flight operating space, a world-class retail and hotel complex, and a unified terminal instead of the current isolated terminals. Later, there will be AirTrain and ferry access.
“The goal is not really to repair and rebuild a 1939 airport. We want an airport that is a state-of-the-art facility. We want a globally renowned airport for the next century that is worthy of the name New York and what we’re doing,” Cuomo said.
The project is a $4 billion public-private sector partnership with more than 50 percent of the money being privately funded. The first half of the project is expected to break ground next year with new facilities approximately in 39 months, with all construction complete within 18 months thereafter. Delta has also agreed to be a partner in the new airport and will work to redevelop their two terminals — C and D — to work together with the unified terminal.
The airport will remain open and functional during the construction phase.
“This is the greatest city in the world. It’s not a hyperbole. It’s the greatest city in the world and it requires a 21st-century infrastructure,” Biden said. “The airport has a first-class workforce, and they deserve a first-class facility to serve customers who count on them.”
In response to the project plan, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said she recommends the Port Authority expands its Aircraft Noise program throughout construction phases of LaGuardia; creates a cellphone lot; and creates more short- and long-term airport parking.
“As much as LaGuardia and JFK International are tremendous economic assets to Queens and to the region, with them has come the need to mitigate the direct, daily impacts of growth upon the thousands of families immediately surrounding them,” Katz said. “When convening this blue-ribbon panel on which I have had the pleasure to serve, the governor charged us with ensuring that community needs are addressed, especially with regard to noise and alleviating traffic congestion.”
Along with LaGuardia, Cuomo also mentioned improvements that will take place at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York, to accommodate more commercial flights to reduce traffic at LaGuardia and JFK airports and make the airport a “New York Free Trade Zone”; renovations at JFk airport such as a historic renovation of the Saarinen building being constructed to a state-of-the-art hotel; and putting to use the Republic Airport also as a “New York Free Trade Zone.”