February 6th, 2014
06:38 PM ET
6 months ago

Biden: LaGuardia like a 'third world country'

(CNN) - New York's LaGuardia airport is notorious for crowded terminals and other constraints that contribute to horrid flight delays. And Vice President Joe Biden doesn't appear to be a big fan.

But New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio isn't taking Biden's comments lightly.

At an event in Philadelphia on Thursday, Biden compares the LaGuardia to a "third world country."

"If I blindfolded someone and took them at 2 o'clock in the morning into the airport in Hong Kong and said 'where do you think you are?' They would say, 'this must be America. This is a modern airport,'" Biden said. "If I took them blindfolded and took them to LaGuardia airport in New York, he would like 'I must be in some third world country.' I'm not joking."

De Blasio called the analogy "inappropriate" and said the vice president's comments were "not his finest moment."

"LaGuardia obviously needs an upgrade, but that being said the airport manages an extraordinary amount of traffic and the people work there make it work under very difficult circumstances," de Blasio said at a press conference on Friday.

"So as a proud New Yorker, I didn't like that comment, and I think it was not the right way to talk about it."

Biden's Hong Kong analogy was a novel, Bidenesque spin on a well-worn Obama administration pitch for more investment in U.S. infrastructure. But it could easily have been a plug for his favorite mode of transportation – the train.

It just so happened that he was speaking at an event to unveil Amtrak's new electric locomotive, where he praised America's only long-haul passenger railroad as vital to transportation along the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.

Biden has been riding Amtrak forever, estimating he made 8,000 trips between his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and Washington during his years in the Senate.

"It's hard to imagine what life would be along the corridor without Amtrak. It is not hyperbole to suggest I-95 would be a parking lot."

Underscoring the need for a reinvestment in the nation's infrastructure, Biden highlighted the diminishing stature of its transportation facilities compared with those internationally.

"Just in the last decade the United States has fallen 20 spots when it comes to the quality of infrastructure in America. It's embarrassing and it's stupid. It's stupid. That puts us literally behind. They rank us behind Barbados. Great country, one airport," he said.

"Look folks, not a joke, we need to reinvest and modernize our whole infrastructure, especially in rail," he said.

Ironically, Amtrak competes with airlines that fly out of LaGuardia for business up and down the Northeast Corridor, boasting that its downtown-to-downtown services are more convenient, especially those premium-paying business travelers who – you guessed it – pack LaGuardia on a daily basis.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates LaGuardia, responded to Biden's comments.

"Significant investment in transportation infrastructure is the key to growing our economy and creating jobs, which is why the Port Authority this week proposed a 10-year $27 billion capital plan that creates more than 126,000 jobs and invests $8 billion in modernizing the region's airports," it said in a statement.

"We are fast-tracking efforts that have lagged for more than a decade and investing $3.6 billion through an innovative public-private partnership to build a new Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia Airport that will provide passengers with a world-class terminal," it said.


Filed under: Joe Biden
soundoff (749 Responses)
  1. bluedogboy

    The VP is 100% right on this one.

    February 7, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  2. crabman1

    lol i thought thats what the US was lately --

    February 7, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  3. sumguy2006

    JFK is no better....and maybe worse.

    February 7, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. Francesco Zappa

    Middlesex County NJ is practically a third world country as well.

    February 7, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  5. Adriana

    A lot of the so called "third world countries" have very modern, high tech, well design airports – stereotyping much?!

    February 7, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  6. antes

    I've not been to LaGuardia, but after going thru the beautiful and modern airports in Seoul, South Korea and Hong Kong last year, and then landing at the San Francisco airport, I thought I had arrived in a Third World country.

    February 7, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  7. Adam

    Summary of what Biden is trying to accomplish:
    -Obtain taxpayer dollars to renovate LaGuardia
    -Use the taxpayer dollars to pay off his lobbyist buddies to "renovate LaGuardia"
    -Accept extravagant donations from the Lobbyist buddies who received taxpayer dollars to "renovate LaGuardia" for his 2016 presidential campaign bid.

    Welcome to Washington!

    February 7, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  8. Why

    The GOP is way too preoccupied with making the rich richer and trying to get Obama to try and work for America. Its disgusting that it took Joe Bidnen to spell it out. The RNC is resorting to trickery to get people to visit their websites under false pretenses. That is CRIMINAL! and must be STOPPED. The GOP is DOOMED in its present course with conservatives and religious wackos at the helm.

    February 7, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  9. Norm

    I totally disagree with Biden. LaGuardia is like the Wrigley Field of airports. It's the old-school and charming little airport. It has the #60 bus that takes you through Harlem and ends on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where the cool stars live. It only costs $2.50 or so. I've never experienced any major delay unless it was caused my bad weather. Everything is easy to find: the restaurants, toilets, ticket kiosks. In some modern airports, it's easy to get lost. LaGuardia is totally cool.

    February 7, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  10. ST

    Why should we the taxpayers have to pay for shiny new airports when the airlines squeeze us into their tin cans, gouge us on pricing, and deliver worse and worse customer service year after year? Biden's not wrong, LGA is a little rough, but its the one airport that completely mirrors the traveler's experience in the air.

    February 7, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  11. crabman1

    the V P got the third world right

    February 7, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  12. Sparky

    He should come to the Walmart near my house–that is a true third world experience........

    February 7, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  13. IMeanReally

    I can not help but believe that if a conservative had made those remarks, they would have been misconstrued and attacked as racist or unfeeling or some other type of ca-ca. But someone from the left makes that comment and all is well.

    February 7, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. macy

    If the govt would just stop wating money by senin it overseas to countries that want to blow us off the face of the earth and on illegals getting free stuff they havent earned, we would probably be able to take care of our infrastructure. As far as Laguardia, I find it to be old but in many ways better than Neark any day!

    February 7, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  15. rizzink

    I'm a New Yorker and he's right! Its a shame! Filthy! No class.

    February 7, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  16. stoney brook

    Third world all the way, but NY Port Authority has funding to start construction of new terminals.

    February 7, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  17. Tina

    He's right about this. It does look like a 3rd World Country. It's a nasty airport. JFK is better.

    February 7, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  18. Dave

    Traveled in and out of LaGuardia for yeas. It had been 7 years between this previous trip and my last trip. Nothing has changed. I am sure in another 10 years it will exactly the same, a terrible airport.

    February 7, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  19. dinkydow

    It's not just the airport Smokin Joe.....it's the whole city..

    February 7, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  20. Barry

    I too have traveled all over the world, and he is right. JFK is worse in some ways. And it is absolutely embarrassing that you can't get a single train ride into Manhattan from JFK. You have to transfer to the subway. As a tourist or anyone lugging around heavy baggage knows, that is a pain.

    February 7, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  21. Indranil S.

    There's only one world people, and we are all in it together. Branding some places as the "third world" is just a sign of misplaced western supeiority complex. I would understand if these countries (I am not sure who decides on the list though) are called "economically challenged," but third world... Really? Also I have always been curious which countries are in the "second world" list.

    February 7, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. Bill

    Actually, everyone has said this about LaGuardia. Joe just plagiarized it. Again.

    February 7, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  23. charles broxton

    They are living well above the poverty level ! If they had 2 work a minimun wage job they would change their attitude on unemployment .

    February 7, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  24. KP

    When Obama was first elected and asked to hear from people about stimulating the economy and job creation I wrote an email saying just this – out roads, bridges, power grids dams, and apparently airports were vastly out of date and at critical familure points...nice to see its finally being mentioned

    February 7, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  25. George

    Look Joe, not only LaGuardia is a third world airport, the United States is a third world country. But this is the country that people like you, Barack, George W, Billy Boy Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and those in Congress during all those years helped build with your incompetence and lack of vision. So, we have what we deserve, a third world country. Now, Hong Kong is part of the only superpower in the world now, China. So the airport is superb and I imagine that Beijing is like living in the 22 century. We in the USA have to deal with an enormous amount of debt, thanks to all the clowns mentioned above, that will take decades to pay off, broken roads, lack of support equipment (look what happened in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago), rusted bridges, lack of government controls (look at the polluted water problem in West Virginia), schools that are falling apart, etc. etc, Even Washington DC looks old and falling apart. Just walk DC and look at those apartments. They must be 50 or more years old. Depressing. So we are a third world country and third world countries have third world airports among other things.

    February 7, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
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