February 6th, 2014
06:38 PM ET
7 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. MPOV

    Economics:

    “Significant investment in transportation infrastructure is the key to growing our economy and creating jobs,"

    Upgrading an International Airport to the 21st Century is NOT a pork project.

    February 7, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  2. Claudia

    I last flew out of there in the mid-80s, back when, I guess, it was much less crowded. I actually loved the deco look and feel of the place, the intimacy of it, the Pan-Am memorabilia on the walls, etc. I guess it hasn't aged well, but then most of us don't....I hope any renovations will pay homage to its history.

    February 7, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  3. MJ

    Hay Joe....Welcome to the life of an average American. The real people in this country don't travel around on government aircraft and fancy private jets. Unless you have some real solution to the problem why don't you just keep your mouth shut.

    February 7, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  4. D Rosado

    Which 3rd world country? .........The local airport in Tijuana/Cancun/Monterrey is far better than LGA. Panama City airport? probably nicer than 80% of US airports. Even SJU is better than LGA.
    That being said, I just dont get LGA. JFK is significantly further away from NYC, still a cab drive from LGA costs as much as a cab ride from JFK (which btw also sucks big time!). If I had to choose how to get to NYC I'd pick Newark, eventhough it means being in New Jersey for a little while, and risk running into the cast of Jersey Shore.

    February 7, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. Don

    I could not believe how spot on his comments are. Having recently flown from Hong Kong to La Guardia I experienced it first hand. In Hong Kong I checked in downtown and left my bags with Cathay Pacific. I got on a clean, modern train and went straight to the airport without lugging bags. The HK airport is clean, new and efficient. 15 hours later I land in LaGuardia and walk through a maize of long grey halls with chipping plaster all over the place. Everything was old and dated. I then waited and waited for the bags to come down an old beat up carousel. I then had to navigate the confusing ground transportation to my hotel. Its a shame.

    February 7, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  6. Jeff

    More people go through LaGuardia in a month than live in the entire state of Delaware.

    February 7, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  7. Dave

    It's the same story everywhere else. Executives taking huge salaries while ignoring their crumbling infrastructure and low wage employees. They grab what they can and leave with a business in shambles. I'm sure they want tax money to pay for the upgrades before they take a pay cut.

    February 7, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  8. Dave

    babbling joe wolk up and said one more deranged thing .Has anybody changed this demented fools diaper today?

    February 7, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  9. mayhem4u

    Biden flapping his pie hole again! As usual, nothing of value comes out!!

    February 7, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  10. Terry

    La Guardia isn't a third world airport....it's just one that was built in the 30s......but functions reasonably well when I was there two years ago.
    The new airports in 3rd world nations like the one in Bangalore, India are amazing as they were built less than 10 years ago built with world class specifications used in Europe, Middle East and the Far East like Singapore or Hong Kong.
    Biden's comparison is not fair, but he has a point that we need to upgrade these old airports.

    February 7, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. Biden the plagarist.

    All he needs to do is unlock some federal funds and LGA will be another Denver. Airports run on federal dollars. Dems need to do that voodoo they do so well and unlock some of that honey instead of spending all of it on welfare.

    February 7, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  12. u laby

    A simple one word answer for you Joe: DETROIT.

    February 7, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  13. mayhem4u

    Biden flapping his pie hole again!! As usual, nothing of value coming out!!

    February 7, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  14. NYVeteran

    I live in NY and Biden is correct. I go to great lengths not to fly in and out of that cesspool. The runways are too short, the facilities are poor, and parking and access are awful. Actually, come to think of it, some 3rd world countries should be insulted.

    February 7, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  15. k

    I've been thinking that about america since Obama got elected by the less intelligent people in this country.

    February 7, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  16. MPOV

    November 3, 2011. From FOX News:

    "WASHINGTON – Republicans in the Senate Thursday dealt President Obama the third in a string of defeats on his stimulus-style jobs agenda, blocking a $60 billion measure for building and repairing infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports and rail lines.

    Supporters of the failed measure said it would have created tens of thousands of construction jobs and lifted the still-struggling economy. But Republicans unanimously opposed it for its tax surcharge on the wealthy and spending totals they said were too high."

    February 7, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  17. Golanego

    The reason Hong Kong has modern airports is because China is finaically stable as a country. The US government spending money we don't have to fix airports would only make things worse. Thats like saying your house is poor like a 3rd world country and you deciede to replace it with a newly built house that you bought with a credit card with 20 % intrerest.

    February 7, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  18. isac

    The concept of 3rd World doesn't exit anymore.

    February 7, 2014 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  19. Elias

    Joe Biden is coping from Donald Trump.
    Donald Trump said long time ago that La Guardia airport look like a third world airport.

    February 7, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  20. JR Wirth

    Was LaGuardia not being called La Garbage even back in the 80's? There's nothing new here. Take a depressed airport and make fun of it. It's not a Federal problem, it's a NY problem. Also, Biden is pirating something Donald Trump was already harping on. Not the first time he's plagiarized a speech.

    Since our country was among the first to even have large airports, of course many of them have ghastly 1960's architecture. It's just the way it is. La Garbage will never be as pleasant as a new airport.

    February 7, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. SUNSHINE_CRUZ

    What is a Thirld World airport by the way?

    February 7, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  22. Lauren

    During my two years in NYC for graduate school, LaGuardia was the airport I frequented when traveling due to the cheap, direct flights I could get to my parent's hometown. Admittedly, the airport leaves a lot to be desired. However, the worst thing about LaGuardia is getting to LaGuardia! You can get a train to JFK and Newark, but not to LaGuardia. From Manhattan, you have to transfer from a train to a bus, which is not fun when you have a large suitcase (not to mention from start to finish you're looking at an hour to an hour and a half to get there – or more). Your other options are a taxi, hired car or a shuttle van that picks of multiple passengers. The taxi and hired car can get very expensive while the shuttle van, though cheaper, can take a couple of hours with all of the stops along the way. There were times I was just so grateful to have made it to LaGuardia in one piece that I didn't care what craziness was taking place once I got there.

    February 7, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  23. sly

    "Republicans in the Senate Thursday dealt President Obama the third in a string of defeats on his stimulus-style jobs agenda, blocking a $60 billion measure for building and repairing infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports "
    =====
    Same way they blocked funding to increase the security at Benghazi, causing the death of an American.

    Republicans will gladly sacrifice Americans if they can undermine our nation under President Obama. "Dead American diplomat in Benghazi, oh, that was worth it, as we weakened Clinton". Typical GOP ...

    February 7, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  24. joe

    give us the money. Let Bloomberg pay, don't even suggest raising taxes. BTW ever been to India? He is an embarrassment to our President. I didn't know Hong Kong was a third world country. Stay out of NY ok?

    February 7, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  25. mrsmass

    how would they know it was modern if they were blindfolded?

    February 7, 2014 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
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