A New Look at LaGuardia Airport

Earlier this year, Vice President Joe Biden compared LaGuardia International Airport to a third-world facility. As usual when Mr. Biden ventures from prepared scripts people were offended. Mr. Biden had to apologize to the airport managers in third-world countries.

Just kidding about that last bit. Actually, Mr. Biden’s remarks created a stir simply because he said out loud what thousands of New Yorkers— and visitors—say to themselves every day. LaGuardia is a wretched gateway to the greatest city in the world, and it’s time somebody said so.

Mr. Biden was back in town the other day, joining Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the very airport he disparaged back in February. He saw no reason to take back his earlier remarks. “It’s unacceptable that LaGuardia has the worst passenger service in the world,” the vice president said.

That’s going to change, as Mr. Cuomo made clear during a press conference called to announce a design competition to rebuild and revitalize not only LaGuardia, but Kennedy Airport as well. The governor told the vice president, “We’ve heard your message and we’re acting on it.”

That’s good news. But it’s hard not to wonder why these critical pieces of infrastructure have been allowed to wallow in obsolescence for all these years, even as other world-class competitors were investing billions in their airports and ancillary support systems, especially direct rail links. The Port Authority, which operates the airports, has presided over the deterioration of LaGuardia and the aging of Kennedy. Too bad Mr. Biden didn’t criticize the agency by name.

It’s also fair to wonder if the governor’s high-profile announcement was prompted by something other than genuine concern for airport design—something like, you know, his re-election campaign. If he is re-elected, New Yorkers should make certain that his grandiose plans become reality, and soon.

Mr. Cuomo suggested that the coming redesign may include a link between LaGuardia and the Long Island Railroad as well as ferry service between the airport and Manhattan. That’s wonderful, but seasoned travelers can’t help but point to other world-class cities that already have superb public transport to and from their major airports.

Mr. Cuomo said his design competition is not intended to delay or impede the Port Authority’s already-announced plans to build a new main terminal at LaGuardia, estimated to cost $3.6 billion. The terminal project and the design competition can co-exist, the governor said.

Let’s hope so, because, as Mr. Biden was nice enough to point out, the airport is in desperate need of help. There surely is plenty of work to be done, but if the Port Authority’s existing plan for a new terminal and Mr. Cuomo’s more sweeping idea for a redesign of the facility conflict with each other, nothing will have been achieved.

Nothing, that is, except a well-timed news conference. A New Look at LaGuardia Airport