With Vice President Joseph Biden at his side, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a welcome competition this week for ideas to help veer LaGuardia Airport back into the first world -- and to help stabilize Kennedy Airport within that realm.

You don't have to be a frequent flier to understand the problems. Evening travelers waiting to depart LaGuardia's central terminal have been known to quietly sip coffee while watching a lively local mouse population frolic.

Arriving fliers headed for Manhattan by cab can test their stamina by pushing forward heavy luggage -- and as often as not tiny, sleep-deprived, howling children -- while the minutes creep by as they wait for a taxi to roll up.

Cuomo admirably volunteered to tackle these problems last January, even though the Port Authority owns the airports. But now he owns this project.

The vice president's presence at Cuomo's side Monday was an especially deft touch. Biden is the one who spoke for most of us not long ago when he blurted out that LGA is "Third World."

JFK isn't quite so hellish, but it's a strong runner-up. The airport is officially 15 miles from midtown. But these are New York City miles, not normal miles. So the trip from the luggage carousel to your hotel room can chew up hours that feel like days.

The AirTrain from JFK to the Long Island Rail Road or to the subway lines in Queens helps -- provided you're not packing like a sultan.

Still, New York is tough place to get into and out of. So now, with an election looming, Cuomo says the design competition will begin in a month. We hope he means business when he says he wants local airports that are more attractive and more efficient.

So what would we like to see now at LGA and JFK?

Better access.Start with high-speed water taxis from Manhattan to LGA and JFK. And add subway service -- maybe via the N train -- from midtown to LaGuardia.

And for the folks running LGA: Build a better mousetrap. Please. Mice at the departure gate just won't do it.