By Bill Parry
There will be a day when travelers enter LaGuardia Airports’s new Central Terminal, its 1.3 million square feet flooded with natural light and featuring world-class food, beverage and retail options. Then they will be able to walk across dual pedestrian bridges connecting to Concourses A and B spanning active aircraft taxi lanes.
It will be the only airport in the world with this kind of pedestrian bridge, where you may stand above the aircraft you are about to fly in.
That day is coming now that the $4.2 billion LaGuardia Airport reconstruction project got underway June 1. In just 39 months, significant portions of the brand new terminal are scheduled to be open to passengers.
“If you look at the airports around the world, it is clear that New York has been left behind, that many of the great international airports are better, more sophisticated than New York’s airports,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “LaGuardia and Kennedy are the front door for New York to the world, LaGuardia especially. It has been unacceptable for a very long period of time.”
Cuomo was speaking as workers closed long-term parking at Lot P3. During the summer, the large parking garage in front of the current Central Terminal will be torn down to make way for the new 35-gate Central Terminal B to be built closer to the Grand Central Parkway, which will create more room for an additional two miles of taxiway space.
All this, just two years after Vice President Joe Biden said the dilapidated airport was not worthy of New York City.
“Vice President Biden, God bless him, has a way of speaking frankly and he made that point when he said if you were blindfolded and you landed at LaGuardia Airport, you would think that you landed in a third-world country,” Cuomo said. “Not the most tactful statement, but he made the point and he was right and anyone who has been using LaGuardia for the past 10 or 20 years knows that it is not what it needs to be and it is certainly not of New York quality. So the plan is let’s do it right. Let’s do it from the ground up and let’s build a whole new airport.”
Nearly 28.5 million travelers passed through LaGuardia Airport in 2015 and they were subjected to the worst flight delays compared with other major airports in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation In addition, LaGuardia consistently ranks among the worst in the country in terms of cleanliness, according to Conde Nast Traveler.
“The redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport is long overdue and I’m thrilled we are finally moving forward on a comprehensive overhaul to bring it into the 21st century with world-class amenities for visitors and New Yorkers alike,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), whose district includes LaGuardia, said. “Not only will it become a better-looking, better-equipped, and more efficient airport, but it will also enhance connectivity for countless travelers.”
The first passenger concourse is scheduled to be constructed by 2018, followed by the main terminal building in early 2020. The second passenger concourse will be completed by the summer of 2020. The airport will continue to operate throughout the project.
A consortium of developers, the LaGuardia Gateway Partnership, entered a 35-year lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey June 1 to build and operate LaGuardia Central Terminal B. It is a public-private partnership that includes finance, design, construction, operation and maintenance with a lease term through 2050.
The LGP deal involves six companies—including Skanska, Vantage Airport Group and Meridiam Infrastructure—that officially closed June 1 following a $2.5 billion tax-exempt bond through the Empire State Development Corporation. It is one of the largest bonds of its kind, according to Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority.
“The new Terminal B will be a 21st-century facility offering a high level of customer service and amenities,” Foye said. Stewart Steeves, the CEO of LaGuardia Gateway Partners, called the lease a milestone for the project, the broader New York community and the nation.
“We are committed to delivering this project on time and within budget, while keeping communities engaged and informed,” Steeves said. “Our focus on delivering a great customer experience is rooted in knowing that an airline terminal is the first and last experience a passenger may have when visiting a city and region.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) welcomed the project to his district.
“I believe this multibillion-dollar project presented by Gov. Cuomo will finally bring LaGuardia Airport into the 21st century,” Peralta said. “LaGuardia Airport is the first contact millions of tourists have with New York City, and we all know how important first impressions are. In addition to revamping LaGuardia Airport, this project will provide thousands of much-needed jobs for our hardworking families, increase the economic activity and boost tourism.”
According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the project will generate $1.3 billion in wages and $5.2 billion in regional economic activity.
“We must ensure that businesses owned by women and minorities are represented, that they are able to receive their piece of the state contracts pie,” Peralta said. “It is important that women and minority business owners become certified as MWBE businesses and apply for New York State Contracts.”
Meanwhile, Cuomo was celebrating “shovels in the ground” on another large-scale capital project.
“It is exciting and it is a new day for New York,” Cuomo said. “As a Queens boy who was born and raised here, this gives me a special pleasure that Queens is going to get a new airport, but it is really New York’s airport and this is going to be state of the art and it is going to be better than anything out there and it is going to be the airport that New York State deserves.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr