February 6th, 2014
06:38 PM ET
8 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. Anonymous

    "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.

    Who has been in office the majority of the past decade? Oh thats right, Obama/Biden......
    He is complaining about a breakdown in infratstructure DURING HIS TIME AS THE CHANGE MAKER!!!

    February 7, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Amazing to me how many comments from fellow-Americans are along the lines of "then move the hell out of NY" or some other remark carrying a dismissive and defensive tone. Half of these people probably have never set foot OUTSIDE of the US. Sure, keep up the ignorance and denial. That will ensure we stay #1. *SMH*.... Seriously!

    February 7, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. Deirdre

    Anyone who's driven down a road, flown on a plane or been on a train knows how terrible the infrastructure of the US is today. We have potholes that would rip the undercarriage of your car out in an instant. Bridges on the brink of collapse, as we know, some have already collapsed. The rail system is a joke when compared to other countries. It is time to do something about the condition of the very things people use to get around this country every single day. However, our politicians would rather shut down the government or spend billions more on more bombs. If we don't begin investing in our own country's infrastructure, we aren't going to have anything left to protect. Unless you like driving on dirt roads or riding horses, it's time to begin spending our money wisely.

    February 7, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  4. Greenspam

    I've been to many countries. By far, USA has the worst airports! Why is this happening in America?

    February 7, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  5. popeye1128

    Infrastructure is no longer the priority it used to be in this country. End of story.

    February 7, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  6. Joshua

    What an insanely absurd claim. LGA is an UPSCALE airport.

    This is undoubtedly just political cover for some huge airport union giveaway. High school dropout TSA workers to $15/hour or more!

    February 7, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. bellestarrr

    if uve ever watched an AMTRAC TRAIN go by their old their dirty and run down...u can thank all the politicians in this country(who by the way wear flag pins) for allowing our infrastructure to decline while they vote to build up other countries like iraq and afghanastan..a country like this one should have state of the art EVERYTHING including well paying jobs...again u can thank them for the decline in all that as well...we laugh at Europe and China...they are going places...we are in the dumpster here..dont tell me to go there...i dont give a rats ass about that answer.

    February 7, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. Shah

    Very true, but Mr. Biden, I hope you do something about it and not just make a comment-
    Coming from Dubai, even JFK looks like third world.. La Guardia is a dump. LAX is dump except bradley. our freeways/highways are getting worse. No alternative plan for clogged highways except adding an extra lane. very backward looking indeed.

    February 7, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. Nice!

    All politicians should look at themselves before crying about anything else. I would rather lick the carpet at the airports in New york than claim any of the past 2 administrations

    February 7, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. Horacio Horace

    The truth hurts yet is the fact.

    February 7, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. Mary Sanders

    My thoughts exactly. LAG is a nightmare both in and out of the terminal.

    February 7, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  12. Jon H

    Well ladies and gentleman, if we stopped giving money to every disaster that happen around the world. If we stopped giving our money to Palestine, Egypt and all those other countries that HATE us anyway we would have more than enough to rebuild our infrastructure. I heard we give 500 million annually to Palestine alone? Isn't it time the rest of the world kicked in to support all the bad things happening in the world?

    February 7, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  13. Angela Elain Gambrel

    He doesn't know the third-word. Trying flying into Port-au-Prince International Airport. You land on the tarmac and have to drag your luggage off of the plane and across to this little building.

    February 7, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  14. New Yorker

    How can it be offensive if it is true? I travel all over the United States and I agree that pretty much we have the worst facilities. I love NY but what's true is true.

    February 7, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  15. Known

    American arrogance and myopia at its finest! Of course everyone would only think a modern airport could only be in America!!! Now I am finally starting to understand why most of the world thinks Americans are so self centred.

    Wow – what an insulting thing today from a VP.

    February 7, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  16. snree

    is this bidens way of telling us he is still considering a run in16? he needs to update some of his dinosaur positions including his nixon-era cannabis prohibition stance first.

    February 7, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  17. Steve Crowley

    LaGuardia is bad Biden is much worse.

    February 7, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  18. Truck

    He should get used to it. His boss is making Amerika a third world country....

    February 7, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  19. Zac

    He used to ride Amtrak...now he shuttles himself back and forth by private helicopter rides funded by US taxpayers. The guy may be right, but don't speak of America falling behind when he, himself, finds less than efficient and cost effective means of getting around all the while charging it to the American taxpayer.

    February 7, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  20. SSQ

    US is the thrid world country in many ways.. it is time to put our tax payer's money in some useful way.

    February 7, 2014 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  21. Anthony Boatman

    I work with a lot of international high school exchange students, mainly from Europe and the Far East. When I ask them what they miss most about their home countries, family aside, they almost uniformly respond, "good public transportation." We have a classic Catch-22 situation in this country: people won't ride public transportation because the schedules and quality are so poor, but they're poor because too few people ride them to encourage investment to bring them to the quality of Germany, France, and even Russia. Instead of investing yet more public funds in highways, why not invest in public transportation alternatives that will more desirable than driving?

    February 7, 2014 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. Ba

    Joe's absolutely correct! La Guardia is one of many, but as a major NYC airport, it is even more embarrassing. In fact, most developing countries' airports are a lot more up-to-date these days, than is La Guardia.

    February 7, 2014 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  23. April

    As a Canadian that travelled to LaGuardia, I experienced the delays. Also, I was shocked at the state of the airport. What an eyesore. I ecpected better than this in New York/New Jersey. Never again!

    February 7, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  24. Erika

    Well, seeing as he and his co-worker Obama have driven America into a state of long term unemployment and financial crisis, I'm glad a an out of date airport is the idiot's major concern/complaint. Glad to see where his priorities lie.

    February 7, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  25. Rob S

    We need to stop flying, since flying contributes mightily to air pollution, and is therefore evil. That's about all there is to it. Our options are: A. mass transit or, B. death. I suspect we'll chose death.

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