Improving LaGuardia, JFK, Newark-Liberty airports

Teresa Priolo asks what can be done to improve NYC's major airports.

- More than 124 million people passed through New York’s three major airports in 2015.

A record number were welcomed by structures that are symbols of the past instead of global gateways of the future.

But now that appears to be changing.

The Port Authority is infusing over six billion dollars into Newark-Liberty International Airport and the worst of all, LaGuardia Airport, in an effort to rehab an image long associated with the word "antiquated."

It was a comment by Vice President Joe Biden that put New York on notice.

"If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you must think I must be in some third world country," said Biden.

"I'm not going to defend decisions made 10-20 years ago not to invest in JFK, LGA and Newark, that's one of the reasons why these airports look the way they do. The PA under the leadership of both governors is attacking that," said Patrick Foye, Executive Director, Port Authority of NY and NJ.

That plan includes Gov. Andrew Cuomo's vision for LaGuardia expedited by the Port Authority Board In March. It is a massive, public- private partnership.

"We think that a private developer, with its money at stake, will do a better job and create a 21st century facility and that's why we went this road," said Doyle.

That road involves knocking down the "central" terminal and building a new one that connects to the rest of the airport.

A terminal with high ceilings and modern amenities and because it will be situated closer to the Grand Central Parkway it will expand the footprint of the airport.

Passengers will access their gates by bridges high enough for planes to taxi underneath. That alone will create two miles of taxiways.

"We are creating a 21St century customer experience. We are also taking steps that will increase the efficiency and thru-put of the airport," said Foye.

The renovations will take 74 months and occur while the airport is running.

The project sounds good on paper, but completing this task is high-risk. Some say it's like performing open heart surgery on a marathoner during a race.

At the end of the day, when the big check is written: what's the price? 

"The new terminal at LGA is $4 billion paid for by equity from the developer-- making an investment in the terminal," said Foye.

Another chunk of change comes from the $4.50 passenger facility charge each flier pays when we use LaGuardia.

The authority is assuming responsibility for the new roadways, a new garage and a new substation.

"No additional passenger facility charge. No additional costs to fly into the airport. No taxpayer money. The PA won't be responsible for the debt or the equity," said Foye.

Lets say it becomes $7 billion Who pays the extra $3B?

"We don't see that happening, but if there are overruns, its on the private developer," said Foye.

Airport expert Jack Kasarda says this revamp in his estimation cannot compare to some of the airports he uses around the world.

"It is probably the best they can do in a very tight, restricted space," said Kasadra.

But without a world class hotel or a reliable mass transit link to the center of Manhattan, Kasadsa believes, it will not -- it cannot-- be considered a 21st century facility.

"I don't think LGA is going to be a 2020 terminal. It is going to be a world class facility," said Foye.

The Port Authority is a bi-state agency so the allocations of funds must be equal.

Newark-Liberty International Airport is also getting a cash infusion at a cost of $2.3B. A new terminal "A" will be built. It will cover one million square feet and house 33 gates.

But unlike LaGuardia, the authority and the FAA will foot that bill: meaning public money.

There is also talk of replacing Newark's Air Train.

At the end of the day, everyone seems to agree, the Port Authority is doing what it should have done all along: invest in its infrastructure... and its decades overdue.

"New York and New Jersey deserve world class airports and that's what we intend to deliver," said Foye. 

JFK is one of the few international airports without an on-airport hotel.

Gov. Cuomo announced Thursday the construction of a new, state-of-the-art hotel at JFK in the historic TWA flight center, which was designed by world renowned architect Eero Saarinen.

The hotel will include 505 guestrooms, 40,000 quare feet of conference, event and meeting space; and a 10,00 square foot observation deck. The hotel will also be LEED certified.

The redevelopment of JFK's TWA Flight Center Hotel will move forward under a public-private partnership between development, JetBlue and the Port Authority Of New York and New Jersey.

The $265 Million construction project, which is expected to break ground next year, will generate 3,700 jobs.

It is expected to open in 2018.

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