In February 2014, Vice President Joe Biden made a major gaffe when he likened New York's LaGuardia Airport to a third-world country.
"If I blindfolded someone and took him at 2 o'clock in the morning into the airport in Hong Kong and said, 'Where do you think you are?' he would say, 'This must be America; this is a modern airport,'" Biden said at an event. "If I took him blindfolded and took him to LaGuardia Airport in New York, he would [think], 'I must be in some third-world country.'"
Although the crowd laughed, at least one person took Biden's comments very seriously: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who yesterday unveiled his plan for a new, redesigned LaGuardia Airport with a single, structurally unified main terminal instead of the airport's current, fragmented terminal layout.
"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," said Cuomo, who introduced his vision alongside Biden. "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, and I want to thank our many partners for joining us to build the airport that New York deserves."
Pending approval from the board of directors of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, construction on the first half of the new "unified" terminal is expected to cost $4 billion and create 8,000 direct jobs, as well as 10,000 indirect jobs. Work is expected to commence in the first part of 2016 and open to passengers in 2019, with final completion scheduled for 2021.
Work on the second half of the terminal will be managed by Delta Air Lines, which will redevelop its terminals in parallel with the first half of the project.
"Delta commends Gov. Cuomo on his airport reconstruction plan, which will transform not only the New York City travel experience but also the landscape of the city itself," said Delta Air Lines President Ed Bastian. "Delta has invested more than $2 billion in infrastructure upgrades and passenger enhancements at our hubs at LaGuardia and JFK, and the initiatives announced today are aligned with our ongoing commitment to providing an exceptional experience for anyone traveling through New York for business or pleasure. We look forward to working in partnership with the governor's design commission on a comprehensive and complementary redevelopment plan that realizes our mutual goals and benefits all New York passengers."
In addition to a new, unified terminal, Cuomo's vision for LaGuardia includes expanded transportation access, significantly increased taxiway space, and enhanced passenger amenities. Proposed improvements include: the addition of an AirTrain directly connecting LaGuardia to the New York City subway and Long Island Rail Road, resumption of ferry service to the airport, the inclusion of a tram or monorail to move passengers more quickly through the terminal, a larger security screening area to reduce security wait times, clearer signage, greater use of natural light, new retail and dining options, inclusion of a conference center, and the option to build a 200-room onsite boutique hotel.
"Bringing LaGuardia Airport into the 21st century is critical to keeping New York City competitive. This is a gateway to New York City and the region for millions of tourists and businesses," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. "I applaud Gov. Cuomo and Vice President Biden for undertaking a revitalization of LaGuardia that promises to drive growth across the region and dramatically improve service for passengers."
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