Surviving LaGuardia Airport

It is, quite possibly, the best thing that can happen to you at LaGuardia airport. You make it out. You might be delayed, hungry and feeling as weathered as the building itself. survived.  The rest of us can only hope for the same good fortune.

Bedraggled and ramshackled, LaGuardia is an empty shell of its former self. Old video and photos of LaGuardia show a jewel in the glory days...this seaport, turned modern gateway..was a destination on its own.  It's still a destination. But now,not a pleasant one.

"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," Vice President Joe Biden famously said once.

The vice president's comment echoes through the halls of the Central Terminal.

UNC professor John Kasarda studies airports.

"New York deserves better than to be introduced through LaGuarida Airport and JFK,"  Kasarda says.

He believes hubs like Dubai, Hong Kong and even Detroit, in a bankrupt city, are symbols. Signals. The city's business card, and final handshake.  In New York, ours read "help".

"I'm really surprised that the Port Authority has been so complacent over the decades."

He says it's less a "don't know" problem than a "don't care."

With its $7.9 billion operating budget, the Port Authority, manages four bridges, three airports, two tunnels, a rail line, a bus terminal, the largest port on the East Coast and an expansive real estate portfolio.

Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia airports, pull in a half a billion dollars net a year.  But instead of using the profits for upgrades, the Port Authority has, for decades, been playing Robin Hood with airport revenue.

Nicole Gelinas, a transportation expert at the Manhattan Institute says, "They pretty much take the money from airports, bridges, use that to pay for the losses at bus terminal and transit system."

Those losses-- roughly, the same as airport gains.  

Year after year, in survey after survey, LaGuardia is ranked as one of the worst airports in the country.  In 2015 LaGuardia was ranked worst in flight delays, due in part to its lack of runways.  It also ranks dead last in cleanliness, congestion and connectivity.

JFK and Newark don't rate much better.

Kasarda says, "New York City taxes could be reduced with efficient airports just by the amount of extra business that these airports could generate if they were world class."

If this was a report card-- our big three airports would be called in for an emergency parent-teacher conference...consistantly considered unsatisfactory and embarrassing.

Patrick Foye, the Executive Director of the Port Authority, says, "It is a bit embarassing but the thing that is embarassing is not the vice president's comment.  The vice president's comment, sadly, with respect to LaGuardia is true, and it's the fact the Terminal B and LaGuardia are in that shape.  That's what's embarrasing."