By Bill Parry
Vice President Joe Biden, who in 2014 likened LaGuardia Airport to one in a third world country, returned there to help Gov. Andrew Cuomo formally break ground on the $4.2 billion reconstruction project, marking the first complete rebuild of an airport in the United States in 20 years.
Cuomo thanked Biden for “opening our eyes” to the dilapidated state of the airport, paving the way and clearing federal red tape for the new 1.3 million-square-foot, state-of-the-art Grand Terminal Building with a new road network and 3,000-space parking garage.
“LaGuardia is a key driver of New York’s economy and transportation network, but for far too long it has been outdated, overcrowded, and unworthy of the Empire State,” Cuomo said. “Today, we are not just breaking ground, we are building an entirely new LaGuardia and transforming it into a world-class transportation gateway for the 21st century. This state has always been built to lead and now that legacy continues with this unprecedented project that will drive growth and generate continued prosperity for generations to come.”
Biden, who called himself Mr. Infrastructure, came to LaGuardia to bring more attention to the reconstruction in the hope that other governors would follow Cuomo’s example and build big projects.
“You’re going to make a gigantic difference not only in the state of New York, but in the region,” Biden said. “It’s consequential. Our life blood depends on it. The greatest city in the world needs and deserves the greatest infrastructure.”
With aircraft taking off and landing behind them, Cuomo said by moving the terminal 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway, it will increase airport taxiways by more than two miles, “which increases the flight operations 240 percent.” That means more flights coming in, and turning around faster for departure, he said.
The rebuild, the largest public-private partnership in U.S. history, will create 18,000 direct and indirect jobs, he added, helping New York “get its mojo” back.
“The ground-breaking for the construction of the new LaGuardia Airport signals to the world New York’s commitment to remaining the first-rate city we all expect it to be,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said. U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said. “The overhaul of LaGuardia has been a long time coming and I’m thrilled that shovels are finally in the ground.”
New Q70 bus Select Bus Service will link LaGuardia with subway hubs in Woodside and Jackson Heights, and down the road the governor promises an AirTrain that will deliver travelers to Willets Point for Long Island Rail Road and No. 7 subway service into a “new” Penn Station. The East Side Access project will eventually provide LIRR access to Grand Central Terminal, and the 7 will connect to a $1 billion expansion of the Javits Center.
“So, LaGuardia in and of itself is exciting, but LaGuardia is part of what amounts to a $100 billion infrastructure program,” Cuomo said, calling it “the largest reinvestment in New York’s infrastructure in modern history, and that’s long overdue.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr