Queens takes flight

Last year Queens was singled out as the No. 1 destination in the country by Lonely Planet, which must not have sent its travel writers to review our exotic borough by flying into LaGuardia. We would have lost the race to the top before round one even began.

But now the beleaguered airport, which opened to much fanfare back in 1939 under Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, is going to get the long overdue face-lift that Queens and the rest of the city deserves.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced stunning plans for a $4 billion overhaul that will transform LaGuardia into a 21st-century transportation hub and replace decades of compounded neglect at the city’s first major air terminal.

Apparently stung by Vice President Joe Biden’s comparison of LaG to a “Third World Country” last year, the governor and other powers clicked into high gear and came up with a blueprint to unify the four terminals and move them closer to Grand Central Parkway. This will create more space for plane taxiing and cut time at the gate, factors which have put LaGuardia at the top of the list of the worst airports in America for years.

The ambitious project is scheduled to be completed by 2021—a formidable goal for one of the nation’s busiest airports as it continues to handle more than 25 million passengers a year.

As part of the coming glory days for LaGuardia, the borough will get a rail link from Willets Point. A train to LaGuardia has been under discussion off and on in northern Queens for years, but now this will propel LaG into the ranks of a decidedly First World airport.

The AirTrain will pick up passengers from the Long Island Rail Road and the No. 7 train at the Willets Point stop for a 1.5 mile trip to the airport. The route takes the air out of most NIMBY arguments since a large part of it would run along the Grand Central Parkway.

And Queens, which has long been the city’s stepchild when it comes to transit, will be on track to get high-speed ferry service from Manhattan to the Marine Air Terminal, home of the shuttle, which will remain separate from the rest of the airport.

Kennedy, which is light years ahead of LaGuardia in passenger amenities, may turn Eero Saarinen’s masterpiece—the TWA Flight Center with its magnificent birdlike structure—into a hotel.

Lonely Planet is a great prognosticator: Queens is poised to earn its reputation as the most coveted destination for tourists in America.

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