By Bill Parry
The audacious $4 billion plan announced Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will replace LaGuardia Airport “in its entirety” by 2021 with a single, structurally unified main terminal with expanded transportation access, significantly increased taxiway space and wider gates that will accommodate modern aircraft.
He promised that it will accomplish all that while keeping the airport open for business for more than 30 million travelers a year and its 11,000-plus employees.
LaGuardia currently contributes more than $16 billion in economic activity to the region annually, generating nearly 121,000 total jobs and $5.9 billion in annual wages, according to officials. Construction on the first half of the new unified terminal is expected to create 8,000 jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs as well.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), whose district includes LaGuardia Airport, was a guest at the luncheon hosted by the Association for a Better New York at the Sheraton-Times Square where the governor unveiled the rebuilding plan.
“It is in my hope that construction to transform the airport takes off as soon as possible,” Peralta said. “The investment in our airport will bring thousands of jobs to our hard-working families, will boost tourism and increase economic activity. This is a win-win situation for everyone.”
Borough President Melinda Katz served on the blue-ribbon Governor’s Airport Advisory Panel which was charged with ensuring that community needs were addressed.
“This is an important juncture for Queens,” Katz said. “Infrastructure upgrades are critical to the economic engines of our borough and our city to remain competitive. With the recommendations by this panel and with the governor’s leadership, we are moving forward in creating a 21st-century, state-of-the-art airport and entry portals that are befitting the international capital of the world.”
Cuomo said ground-breaking for the mega-project, which will be 50 percent privately funded, will take place early next year. The terminal location will be moved 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway, creating a 240 percent increase in space that will allow for two miles of additional runway space, cutting down on the aircraft congestion that has made LaGuardia one of the most delay-plagued airports in the country.
The new terminal will have soaring atriums, an in-terminal shuttle running from end to end, modern amenities and increased retail space. The master plan also calls for an AirTrain link with the No. 7 subway line and the LIRR at Willets Point, as well as ferry service to the airport.
“New York had an aggressive, can-do approach to big infrastructure in the past—and today, we’re moving forward with that attitude once again,” Cuomo said. “We are transforming LaGuardia into a globally renowned, 21st-century airport that is worthy of the city and state of New York. It’s the perfect metaphor for what we can achieve with the ambition and optimism and energy that made this the Empire State in the first place.”
During Hurricane Sandy, more than 100 million gallons of saltwater flooded the airport and shut it down for two days, affecting 250,000 passengers and causing economic losses of roughly $108 million to the region. With that in mind, all critical infrastructure will be elevated in order to keep the airport operational during a flood event and better prepared for similar extreme weather events.
The redesign plan also calls for the alleviation of traffic in neighboring communities with increased parking options on-site and a new rental car facility for the ten companies that currently serve LaGuardia from multiple dispersed locations, further reducing congestion.
“Our first-rate city requires an equally first-rate airport to welcome visitors, and New Yorkers will soon have one they can be proud of,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), whose district includes LaGuardia Airport. Not only will it become [a] better-looking, better-equipped, and more efficient airport, but the development will have a tremendous impact in Queens with the creation of thousands of new jobs.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr