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. abby

    let borrow more money from Hong Kong to buld our airports while Hong kong will use the interest we pay on our borrowed money to buid thier airports. Clueless democrats. Live within your means.

    February 6, 2014 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  2. Kevin

    Oh man, thank goodness he's a Dem. If not, I know how this would have been spun (3d World Country, people milling around, yup, not pretty). This could have been bad if someone else had said it.

    February 6, 2014 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  3. Brad2U

    Great.. The Port Authority just hied another 126,000 pension earners to bankrupt the state in a few years. While riding on the MTA, you might want to watch for the new workers standing in groups, smoking cigarettes, and committing to about one hour of hard work per day. Great..

    February 6, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  4. RODNEY

    I Live in New York City and my friends and family have been making this joke between ourselves for YEARS !!!!
    ..and I'm not Rich, White or Republican.

    February 6, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  5. Paul

    Where's all your astronomical taxdollars going, New Yorkers? Social programs? To over-pay teachers who don't teach?
    Cops who cheat the system and go on disability?

    February 6, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  6. lewtwo

    Want see a third world airport: Go to Moscow.

    February 6, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  7. Rowaldo

    HOW can Biden compare NY-LGA to Hong Kong International Airport? HKG was built on a man made island as a replacement for their downtown airport in Kowloon less than 2 decades ago. LGA is NOT an international airport like JFK or Newark. LaGuardia was built in the 30's named after Mayor LaGuardia. JFK is much bigger and was built for international operations. LGA is to JFK like DCA is to Washington Dulles. LGA is NYC's domestic airport period. JFK has had plenty of room to do many renovations and rebuilding over the years where LGA does not. The USAirways terminal and Northwest/Delta were the last major added terminals at LGA. Describing LGA as a 3rd world country in Mr. BIden's opinion is dumb.

    February 6, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  8. Ed Johnson

    The situation at LaGuardia is not a Federal issue, the Port Authority of NY & NJ should be ashamed of themselves. Should say the same about EWR Terminal A as well, and good riddance to JFK t3, finally. What other city in America would let an old Pan Am terminal remain in-use without renovation until 2013.

    February 6, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  9. M. Ozgoren

    I thought that was always the democrat's plan... America as a third world country with them at the helm.

    February 6, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  10. bob

    Um, yes, he's absolutely right. LaGuardia, like much of the rest of the infrastructure in our country, needs an upgrade. I still don't want him as president though haha

    February 6, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  11. RJ

    I believe Donald Trump said that YEARS ago...another buffoon in the Obama administration

    February 6, 2014 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  12. reasonablebe

    been there a few times too many- and washington dulles is just as bad, by the way.

    February 6, 2014 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  13. Steve

    LIke Biden has traveled the airport in the last 20 years...give me a break.

    February 6, 2014 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  14. Ron L.

    The country has a TRILLION dollars of infrastructure that needs replacement or repair. But the very ultra conservative part of the Republican party COULD NOT CARE LESS. This is despite there are reams of data showing a dollar spent on infrastructure pays back anywhere from $1.20 to $1.50 to the economy. I'm not saying we should attempt to do all of it in the next 3 years but we need to get off our "duffs" and launch some MAJOR projects.

    February 6, 2014 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  15. Samuel Johnston

    Love ya Joe, always speaking the the truth to power.
    Stay on their a– before even Ethiopia starts looking better.

    February 6, 2014 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  16. dfenestrator

    I'm prety sure that would be all kinds or 'racist and xenophobic' if a conservative said it,...they'd have to resign. I guess the media's rules for Biden are different.

    February 6, 2014 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  17. doug marcus

    for once, joe biden got it right.

    February 6, 2014 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  18. VIkzAtl

    Since he is on subject of comparisons... Biden needs to check out Hong Kong's mass transit system, a marvel of efficiency & cleanliness. Compare that to the NY's aging Subway system.

    Ofcourse LaGuardia is not to be blamed. It's one of the 1st airports in the very country that invented aviation, and airports for that matter. I digress, but in the 50's you could simply drive up to the ramp/apron of your aircraft at LGA, so its hard to re-engineer something that was created so long ago.

    With that said, you cannot fix something while still using it. They need to literally build a brand new airport in Flushing bay, and start from scratch.

    February 6, 2014 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  19. mazen

    so please do something !!! is not fair America the dream reaches to this level ,, all AMERICAN citizens and residents should to care more about usa ,, wars and mistakes made this country suffer ,, but its past now ... can we stand again ? America has to keep its supremacy

    February 6, 2014 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  20. Jimh77

    Do it on your Dime Biden, not ours.

    February 6, 2014 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  21. Me

    I was there yesterday flying to Toronto. Most flights cancelled due the weather. Guess what, unless you are checked in and pass TSA, good luck finding something to eat. ONE little 7/11 clone (in the arrivals section, where you have to walk a mile to get to) where a bottle of soda is $2.50. There is absolutely nothing in the departure area. If you need a rest off your feet, you need to sit on the floor. Joe knows what he is talking about

    February 6, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  22. Come to L.A. Biden!

    Los Angeles is looking like a Third World too!

    February 6, 2014 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  23. Bill Marvel

    Laguardia was a hole when I was flying in and out of it in the 1970s.

    February 6, 2014 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  24. its true, lets change it

    its so true, lets get the money into infrastructure and hire local workers

    February 6, 2014 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    And so he's right. American airports, much like American airlines, are a global embarrassment. No offense to the tens of thousands of people who make them run on a daily basis, but as an American, I am appalled at the appearance of American airport terminals, from Dulles to LAX and points in between. Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia puts us to shame. And so does Hong Kong, and Bangkok, and Frankfurt, Heathrow and the list goes on and on.

    February 6, 2014 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
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