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. chris

    anything public is third world country to these rich politicians.

    February 7, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  2. Epidi

    His comments may not have been one of his finest moments but they were honest. The place is a dump and smells of urine. Just like NYC's bus stations lol.

    February 7, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  3. Timothy M

    I don't like Biden, but he's correct in this instance. As a New Yorker, I'm ashamed of La Guardia.

    February 7, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  4. Laura Scaramell

    In my opinion Newark is way worse!

    February 7, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  5. Nat

    I feel bad for Hong Kong airport. Their airport is much better than American airport!!!

    February 7, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  6. james bonham

    No you wouldn't think you were in some 3rd world country! Why? Because in a 3rd WC you would have a open roof smoking bar that stays open 24-7. Can't wait to expat and move to a nice 3rd world country!

    February 7, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. narutogrey

    A while back, I was picking up some exchange students at LaGuardia that were from a REAL 3rd world country. 1 of them was really quiet during the trip to the dorms. When I asked him if he was okay, he apologized and said that he was already homesick. Apparently, he was expecting a grand and modern airport upon arrival to America. Instead, he said the airport reminded him of home.

    February 7, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. Winston

    I consider New York the capital of the world. I'm a proud American but Biden is absolutely correct. LaGuardia airport is a dump. The southwest terminal is appalling. Newark and JFK are nothing to brag about. New York should have some of the best airports in the world and they definitely lag behind.

    February 7, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  9. Beeks

    yeah well make it harder for people from other countries to come here to live. Kind of like the way it is in Australia. They have major restrictions & rules to live there.

    February 7, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  10. Tom

    I've been there. He's right.

    February 7, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. Jim Rome

    What we're talking about is the US spending $700 BILLION per year in Afghanistan and Iraq, and leaving our infrastructure at home to crumble into a state of disrepair like old 1970's porn sets. Wake up, sheeple.

    February 7, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  12. Klas

    As one of the few Republican New Yorkers, I would have to agree with this bozo.
    LaGuardia is indeed a third world country airport in desperate need of repairs (it should be knocked down and rebuilt if you ask me).

    February 7, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  13. SC

    "Why did we lead the world .... ?" Biden's answer: We had the most modern infrastructure in the world. Not any more, Mr. Biden. Those days were long gone.

    February 7, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. CC

    Flying into La guardia is basically half the price of flying into JFK.........so who cares about what it looks like. I like cheap.

    February 7, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  15. Bud

    It is totally appropriate, since they now have a third world mayor. He actually sounds like a Chavez type-class warfare/blame the rich/take away from the people that actually do something.

    February 7, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. John

    Hey Joe! 5 years ago you and your prez were granted $878,000,000,00 that's BILLION Joe in a stimulus package that we were told much would be spent on infrastructure! So just where did YOU spend it pal????

    February 7, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  17. justin

    I'm here right now – surfing the net at a restaurant equiped with an iPad at every seat. Biden could have an experience in a different terminal, but the one I'm at is awesome!

    February 7, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. Daniel

    I agree. We invested a lot of money into other countries, funding wars we shouldn't be fighting and trying to improve nations that hate us – but they sure like our handouts. Enough of that. We need to invest it here.

    February 7, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  19. kpgoog

    You know who has the nicest bus stops? Seriously who cares.

    February 7, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  20. Dave

    Biden's solution: increase taxes by 0.5% on income over $250,000.

    February 7, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  21. Jim in PA

    As usual, Biden is off-the-cuff, brash, and correct. LaGuardia is a dump. If de Blasio did as much international travel as Biden has, he'd know it's the truth. America's infrastructure in general is second rate compared to many countries that we often view as inferior to us.

    February 7, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  22. Woody

    We are a 3rd world country.....

    February 7, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  23. Phil in the Blanks

    Not familiar with the airport...but if it looks and quacks like a duck, then most likely it is one!

    February 7, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  24. antes

    Probably the best airport in the world is Inchon/Seoul ,South Korea. Beautiful open layout kept very clean. All kind of amenities and technology. Great signage so you're never lost.

    February 7, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  25. Andrew

    Let me guess, the airlines have paid congress to hold back rail for decades.

    February 7, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
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