“We didn’t build it for now, we built it for the future,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo while cutting the ribbon this afternoon on the new spacious Terminal B, part of the $8 billion dollar facelift of LaGuardia Airport in Queens.
The airport was once famously called that “of a third-world nation” by then-Vice President Joe Biden, and Governor Cuomo said he was correct. The dark and winding corridors of the airport, built in the 1950s, was cramped and antiquated, he said. But the rebuild was said by many to be impossible and even implausible, he noted.
“We needed to see possibility, we needed New York to stand up and shine, we needed to remember how great a place this is,” Cuomo said as he inaugurated the shining terminal.
“We’ve gone through a rough 101 days,” Cuomo said, referring to the virtual shutdown of the airline industry due to COVID-19, “but you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
The opening of Terminal B followed the much-vaunted completion of Delta’s new concourse and gates in October of 2019. The new terminal is not only of sleek design and aesthetics but features advanced security protocols in a massive modern bag screening area to protect against terrorism and new precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19 that had shut down most of the airline industry for the past 100 days.
The terminal also features world-class concessions include New York Favorites Brooklyn Diner, Junior’s Cheesecake, Hill Country BBQ, Think Coffee, Eli’s Essentials with Offerings from Eli Zabar and new Mulberry Street Restaurant by Chef Marc Forgione.
Some of the permanent artworks are by world-renowned artists Jeppe Hein, Sabine Hornig, Laura Owens and Sarah Sze. The main concourse is also adorned with tile work that depicts various parts of New York City including Stonewall, Grand Central and the Cyclone Roller Coaster of Coney Island.
The LaGuardia rebuild will comprise 2.7 million square feet; 72 new gates across six concourses; two expansive terminal arrivals and departure halls connected by a central hall and a planned AirTrain; and 13.7 miles of new roadway network that winds from the Grand Central Parkway and the adjoining 92nd Street.
The 850,000-square-foot Terminal B includes a four-story arrivals and departures hall. There are numerous local concessions, large, modern restrooms and a New York-inspired shopping district.
Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, led members of the media on a tour of the facility, taking pride in its design and functionality. He showed off a roof deck that will sport a restaurant and lounge. He marveled at a fountain in the middle of the course, the water shooting outshined in multi-colors. And he toured the skybridge that leads to gates, where planes will taxi beneath it in a wondrous spectacle.
“The opening of the first new arrivals and departure hall is a major milestone in delivering on Governor Cuomo’s vision for a brand-new, world-class, 21st-century LaGuardia Airport that the region deserves,” said Cotton, complimenting construction crews for finishing on budget and on time. “Today’s opening should be a shining symbol of the region’s potential for a strong economic recovery with the vitality of New York before COVID-19.”
“This is the first new airport built in 25 years in America, just think of that,” Cuomo noted. “The last one built was in Denver in 1995. This nation hasn’t figured out how to build an airport. People would say, ‘It’s too big, too complicated, too confusing,’ so we just didn’t do it. Meanwhile countries around the world did it. You fly into other nations airports with entertainment, business center and then you fly into our airports and it was so apparent how other nations were outpacing us. Who is going to lead — New York and that is what LaGuardia Airport is all about.”
There was nothing easy about this construction either, Cuomo remarked, “We had to build a new airport while operating the old airport. You know how many people said it couldn’t be done – dozens. You who said it could be done? LaGuardia Partners and Rick Cotton.”
The new Terminal B will open to the public on Saturday, June 13, and serve American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Air Canada. By virtue of its size, the terminal presents greater opportunities to move passengers more safely and efficiently with improved distancing during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, including more space for check-in, security and baggage claim, along with new innovations in contactless technology and an increased focus on cleanliness and disinfection.
Overall, the LaGuardia project is expected to generate $10 billion in economic activity and $2.5 billion in wages over the life of the project, Cuomo said. In addition, the airport will support up to 7,000 jobs, with most of those coming from surrounding communities, he added.
The landmarked American Airline terminal, dating back to 1939, will remain and be restored, officials say.
This story originally appeared on amny.com.