Biden praises plan to revamp 'Third World' LaGuardia Airport

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A rendering of the plan for renovating LaGuardia Airport. (Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo)

NEW YORK (AP) — Two years after likening LaGuardia Airport to a "Third World country," Vice President Joe Biden commended a $4 billion redevelopment project for it at a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday.

Biden joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo to announce the overhaul of the aging and cramped facility.

The plan calls for the remaking of the airport's footprint and a new 1.3 million-square-foot, 35-gate central terminal, which officials said should be completed by the end of 2021. There are also plans for ferry access and rail service that would connect to the Long Island Rail Road, the nation's busiest commuter rail system. More than two-thirds of the overall cost will be paid by private financing and passenger fees, officials said.

"This is not going to just be a rebuilding of what it was, this is going to be a whole new airport," Cuomo said. "We're not just building an airport, we're building an airport that's part of a new vision that revitalizes New York."

Since Biden's unflattering remarks about LaGuardia in 2014, he and Cuomo have provided numerous updates on improvements being planned there.

"When he said, and we kid him about it, that if you landed in LGA and you were blindfolded and they took off the blindfold you'd think you'd be in a Third World country, it was his way of saying the king has no clothes, and he was right," Cuomo said of his fellow Democratic politician. "I'm proud to be the governor who heeded his words and stepped up to the plate, because he was right."

Biden said he "wasn't so sure when I said that that people would be clapping." He commended Cuomo for taking action and said other governors should be following suit to improve infrastructure.

"The greatest city in the world — and New York is, it's not hyperbole — needs and deserves the greatest infrastructure in the world," he said, noting that the United States ranks only 26th in the world in its infrastructure.

Cuomo and state officials also held a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday afternoon.


Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.