Biden joins Cuomo to stump for better NYC airports

Vice President Joe Biden and Governor Andrew Cuomo in a hanger at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in Queens.
Vice President Joe Biden and Governor Andrew Cuomo in a hanger at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in Queens. Photo Credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants New York airports revitalized to shed their reputations as facilities befitting a “third-world country” — the phrase Vice President Joe Biden had used to describe LaGuardia.

Cuomo Monday joined Biden at the Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in Queens to announce a competition to create “master plans” for the city’s two major airports.

“He was right, by the way,” Cuomo said of Biden’s characterization of LaGuardia.

Biden highlighted infrastructure spending as the way to maintain the country’s global competitiveness and stressed that JKF and LaGuardia need to be upgraded to keep up with other international airports.

“It’s unacceptable that LaGuardia has the worst passenger service in the world,” Biden said. “It doesn’t matter how nice JFK’s Jet Blue terminal is if you can’t get in and out of the terminal quickly, efficiently and you can’t find a place to sleep and do business.”

Cuomo’s competition calls for proposals that devise plans to modernize the aging facilities with technology to speed the check-in process, better retail shops and restaurants, lodging, improved layout and more transit options.

“Our airports are not where they need to be, especially when you consider the international competition,” Cuomo said.

Teams will have 90 days to come up with a “master plan” to modernize and improve airports. The top three designs will get $500,000 to expand the proposal into a final plan, which must include a construction timeline. The proposals would also factor in renovation projects at the airports: a $3.6 billion effort to build a new central terminal at LaGuardia and Kennedy’s new Delta terminal.

Cuomo stressed the need for more transportation links beyond the buses that go to LaGuardia and the AirTrain that connects Kennedy to the A, J and Z trains and the Long Island Rail Road. He touted fast ferry service that is in vogue in European cities and raised the idea of bringing a LIRR link to LaGuardia. Cuomo was open to seeing a subway link to LaGuardia in some of the proposals, he told reporters.

“The time delay to get to the airports from our central city, from Manhattan, is too long,” especially when compared to cities like London and Paris, Cuomo said.

Real estate developer Joseph Sitt, who founded Global Gateway Alliance, which advocates for improving airports, said the action plan was a good first step on a long path to get New York’s airports up to “the standard of a second-world country.” Still, he wanted to hear more a concrete plan.

“No announcement for time frames, no commitments in the dollar amounts,” Sitt said after the presentation. “That’s what’s frustrating.”