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LaGuardia Airport's rebuilt Terminal B opening 11 of 18 new gates

It's the first major milestone in the airport's $8 billion overhaul.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo greets Raymond Roberson, who manages

Gov. Andrew Cuomo greets Raymond Roberson, who manages the MAC store in the new Terminal B. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The first new gates of a rebuilt Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport will open on Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.

Eleven of a total of18 gates will be opened in the new terminal concourse — part of the Port Authority’s $8 billion, largely privately funded plan to rebuild the notoriously dingy airport, with the entire new facility expected to be substantially completed by 2022.

"It’s going to be a magnificent facility and it’s going to be what New York deserves,” Cuomo told reporters after giving a speech on infrastructure and hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We’re catching up to what’s been going on around the globe.”

The new, 225,000-square-foot concourse features a 55-foot ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows shining light onto new restaurants and shops, including an FAO Schwarz, MAC cosmetics and Shake Shack. Terminal B is occupied by American, United and Southwest airlines, as well as Air Canada.

The opening represents a small fraction of the new airport buildings, which will eventually  cover 2.7 million square feet, with 72 new gates and six new concourses.

“Today’s celebration represents real tangible progress that everyone can see and experience,” said Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority. “For us it also symbolizes our momentum as we build a whole new LaGuardia Airport.”

Ground was first broken for the project in 2016. Seven more gates are expected to open in 2020, along with two glassy pedestrian bridges with scenic views and two island concourses. A new Terminal C  for Delta Air Lines will feature 37 gates and replace the existing Terminals C and D when it opens in 2021.

The governor has received some criticism for not widening the airport’s pair of short intersecting runways to improve capacity at the facility, which serves 30 million passengers a year. Cuomo reiterated Thursday that Rikers Island, nearby, was the “obstacle” to doing so.

“If Rikers Island was closed you could use part of that for a longer runway,” said Cuomo, who discussed the runway issue with President Donald Trump the day before. “The runway is dangerously short, some would say.”

Critics have also called out Cuomo for his focus on the region’s airports while not doing enough to solve the various crises at the state-controlled MTA, which is grappling with significant financial challenges and poor bus and subway service.

Cuomo pledged on Thursday to pass a congestion pricing program during the next legislative session in Albany, beginning in January, which is expected to help but not completely close the authority’s budget gap.

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