February 6th, 2014
06:38 PM ET
9 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. Mediocrities

    "Hey, when you're right you're right" ~ Mediocrities, 399 BC

    February 6, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  2. inisheer

    As a lifetime New Yorker I can say: Joe you are correct!. LaGuardia Airport is an epic mess. It's only surpassed in infamy by the disaster known as Penn Station.

    February 6, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  3. dean

    Gotta laugh at ole Joe. He rode that antique train from Washington to his home for 35 years and never thought to complain. While the rest of the MODERN world can{t imagine an AMTRACK train running at 90 mph in TODAYS WORLD. Better to just keep quiet Joe

    February 6, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  4. xjerky

    First get the LaGuardia runway lengths up to the FAA requirements.

    February 6, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  5. mensaman

    When Biden was elected Vice President that made America a Third World Country.
    He's such a buffoon he has to preface anything he says with "Not a joke..."
    America can only heal when this failed Administration is gone.

    February 6, 2014 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  6. ThroxxOfvron

    Biden thinks LaGuardia is a mess ?
    Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC resembles a mid-eighties Polish rail station with an Au-Bon-Pain grafted on...

    February 6, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  7. jackCANDOBUTWONT

    OH wait…is this another of those SHOVEL READY jobs I have heard sooo much about????

    February 6, 2014 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  8. Bobbi

    You are the Vice President – do something about it. It's like everything else in this presidency – blame on someone else and do nothing.

    February 6, 2014 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  9. jerrylax

    yeah…why didn't they start this infrastructure works years ago? Before long we won't have anyone who knows how to build anything…kinda like russia and the Olympics, pipes leaking and etc… Better get behind business and real job creation in the form of producing products for trade..that is the way to prosperity.

    February 6, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  10. milagros

    The NY/NJ Port Authority has a taxpayer/toll payer funded budget well beyond the GDP of most countries. Biden is correct. There is no excuse for the poorly maintained bridges, tunnels, and airports. There is plenty of money to build new bridges with sufficient capacity to move traffic through efficiently – even during peak periods. LaGuardia is way too small, difficult to access from overcrowded roads, and the runways dangerously short. Rather than wasting more money in that terrible location, it should be closed.

    February 6, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  11. Drew9944

    What a bunch of "spin-sheisters" the Port Authority of NY/NJ is. Trying to PRETEND they are helping the NY Area with Economic Development? Their super-high-tolls such as $16 to cross the Hudson River into NYC and same on Whitestone and Triboro Bridges round-trip, is a HUGE ECONOMIC DRAG ON NYC and the region. The $16 tolls to cross bridges greatly harm the entire NY Economy, and are partly why NYC today has less people than it had in 1950 (even as USA's population doubled). HUGE TOLLS are used by the Port Authority to pay unbeleivably huge $200,000 and up Retirement Pensions to Toll Takers and Cops who mostly just stand at Bridge Toll Plazas to make sure the Public is gouged.

    February 6, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  12. Joseph

    Every airport in America is like a 3rd world country...

    February 6, 2014 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  13. Drew9944

    Everywhere else in the USA, even a $5 toll to cross a bridge would be EXCESSIVE. But the Port Authority charges 3 – 5X as much in tolls to cross bridges, so their Execs. can retire with $300,000 to $500,000 a year Pensions, and even the Port Authority Cops and Toll Takers retire with $200,000 and higher pensions often. The reality is the NY/NJ Port Authority is reaming the citizenry of the region badly, and is a big cause why NYC has not grown in 60 years (its 8 million population today is same as in 1950). NY State would be wise to pass a law to end the Quasi-Government Agency "Port Authority". VP Biden is right, they Port Authority takes in tons of toll money, and NY's LaGuardia Airport is incredibly outdated (still has same Terminals in many cases as were built in 1940s)

    February 6, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  14. Ted

    VP Biden's right. LaGuardia Airport is very outdated. Its not because of a lack of money by the NYC region Port Authority. Their tolls are thru the roof, instead spent on huge pensions for their own. Everywhere else in the USA, even a $5 toll to cross a bridge would be EXCESSIVE. But the Port Authority charges 3 – 5X as much in tolls to cross bridges, so their Execs. can retire with $300,000 to $500,000 a year Pensions, and even the Port Authority Cops and Toll Takers retire with $200,000 and higher pensions often. The reality is the NY/NJ Port Authority is reaming the citizenry of the region badly, and is a big cause why NYC has not grown in 60 years (its 8 million population today is same as in 1950). NY State would be wise to pass a law to end the Quasi-Government Agency "Port Authority". VP Biden is right, they Port Authority takes in tons of toll money, and NY's LaGuardia Airport is incredibly outdated (still has same Terminals in many cases as were built in 1940s)

    February 6, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  15. Chainsaw Eddie

    Joe Biden: always good for a laugh! When he leaves politics he needs to go on Saturday Night Live or Stewarts show as co-host.

    February 6, 2014 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  16. ALLAMERICAN

    Wow. Finally someone telling it like it is. US infrastructure is far behind the balance of the developed world.

    February 6, 2014 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  17. Us and a

    Drove there once i thought i was in camden nj. If had to compare it to jfk airport, it would be hell vs heaven. Even the roads going to the airport is garbage just imagine the airport.

    February 6, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  18. Jessica McGwin

    Well that's what you wanted. You and the rest have spent the revenue where ever it suits you. Now our infrastructure is crumbling. Neglect your people, neglect your business and you get a 3rd world country. Not to worry China will fix it up for you. You all just sit back take 2 yrs off do nothing for a little longer, you can afford it .

    February 6, 2014 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  19. AC

    Well, the country is gradually becoming 3rd world. Thanks to the GOP and medieval thinking.

    February 6, 2014 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  20. John

    He thinks LaGuardia is bad. I've traveled to dozens of third world countries and I've never seen anything as bad as Newark International. It is a defunct, disgusting dump.

    February 6, 2014 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  21. R C

    $17 trillion would have built a lot of new airports.

    February 6, 2014 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  22. Frequent Flyer

    Hong kong airport, along with those in places like Singapore and Dubai, is far more modern and sophisticated than any airport in the US, and the idea that anyone would mistake it for a US airport is laughable.

    February 6, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  23. Redflor

    Once again, true. La guardia has the lowest roof I've ever seen in any airport (Could reach up and touch it) and poorly placed security everywhere. There were so many gaping holes in their security plan I wondered how they could handle a potential attack.

    February 6, 2014 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  24. Danlien

    Why don't we have strict emission standards on airlines? I'm sure they put out more transportation emissions then anything else out there.

    February 6, 2014 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  25. mannycl

    And he is 100% right. La Guardia is a dump.

    February 6, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
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