Just eight months ago, Vice President Joseph Biden used LaGuardia Airport as an example for the dismal state of infrastructure in the United States, referring to the airport as one that might be found, “in a Third World country.”
Earlier this week, however, the comment was all laughs as Biden joined Governor Andrew Cuomo in the William Decota airplane hangar at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in East Elmhurst to discuss a new plan designed to bring immediate change to several New York airports.
"The number one job of government is to promote economic growth and prosperity, and one of the best ways to drive commerce is by investing in infrastructure that connects New York with local, national and international markets," Cuomo said as he announced the Master Plan Design Competition.
Designers from around the world that take part in the competition will not only be asked to create a modernized design for the airports, but also include ways of improving transportation with the possibility of high-speed ferries or improved rail service, as well infrastructure enhancements to prepare for potential future natural disasters.
Cuomo said plans for the design competition would not step on the toes of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which currently has a roughly $3.6 billion to refurbish LaGuardia’s Central Terminal.
The winning design from the competition, which begins in 30 days and provides design firms 60 days to develop their plans.
“This is an extraordinarily fast timeline,” he said. “What we’re saying first is, take a look at the template and give me some big ideas about that footprint; out-of-the-box ideas that address issues like transportation, ferries and hotels.”
Also included in the competition is a redesign of the entirety of John F. Kennedy International Airport, including possible transportation enhancements and increased hotel capacity in the immediate surrounding area.
Cuomo added that other possible improvements at the southern Queens airport could also be the addition of state-of-the-art amenities with dining and shopping opportunities, as well as an upgrade to all facilities across-the-board.
“Business people are flying from airport to airport, and when they get to New York airports they get frustrated,” Cuomo told reporters following the press conference. “The other airports, it’s night and day and that can’t be.”
Biden congratulated Cuomo on his visionary plan for the future of New York airports, even comparing him to the likes of former President Abraham Lincoln, adding, “he’s like you pal, he had a vision.”
“It’s unacceptable that LaGuardia has the worst passenger service in the world,” Biden said. “It doesn’t work, the hallways are too long and it doesn’t make sense. And it doesn’t matter how nice the JetBlue terminal is at JFK if you can't get out of the terminal quick and efficiently.”
The governor’s office reported that both LaGuardia and JFK airports served nearly 77 million customers last year, or roughly one-quarter of the U.S. Population.
The competition also includes proposals to increase capacity at Stewart International Airport in the Hudson Valley and Republic Airport on Long Island to relieve some of the traffic at the city's two airports.
In January, Biden and Cuomo put more focus on New York infrastructure with the unveiling of “Reimagining New York for a Reality,” a $17 billion plan to supply coastal protection to protect residents from possible future extreme weather.
It was then that the vice president expressed his concerns for upgrades at the airports.
“There’s not a single thing this nation can’t do,” he said. “I am more optimistic, more convinced, more certain about the future of this country than I have ever been in my entire life.”