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

    He got the point. This airport is horrible. I try to avoid as possible.

    February 7, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  2. MarcT

    I find it pretty insulting to compare LaGuardia with a third world airport. Many third world countries put in a good effort with their one/few airports, as it is usually one part of the country that most visitors will see. I'd take Phnom Penh over LaGuardia any day.

    February 7, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  3. Jim

    Bulldoze it and start from scratch.

    February 7, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. Mike

    Get rid if Rikers jail and extend the airport.
    Who say World Class

    February 7, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  5. Steve Lahner

    Hahaha, when liberals are insulting their own stomping grounds, you know things must getting bad. Soon the whole country will be like the third world.

    February 7, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  6. Lisa L

    LaGuardia was a huge disappointment for me on the one and only time that I will ever visit the airport. Dirty, decayed, and disappointed. Biden may not get all things correct or say the appropriate words, but 3rd world country is the best description.

    February 7, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  7. Tom

    If you want to "fix" LaGuardia, fine. As long as it's financed by a usage tax on those who fly in and out of there. Leave the pocketbooks of the rest of us alone.

    February 7, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  8. Sokesky

    LaGuardia looks better than the airport in Rome, also not a third world country.

    February 7, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  9. Brian

    WOW I guess when you fly private jet at (200,000) a flight you feel you have the right to smear 3rd world country in OUR (Americans) Faces! We use the airport because we dont have private jets Mr Vice President, Im sorry I cant buy New York a new airport. But until I can buy New York a new airport I will continue Using that airport and I will keep on Loving NY!

    February 7, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  10. kmt

    I guess he hasn't been to MIA lately because that reminds me of a third world

    February 7, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  11. ewfjcopwaef

    Why is this the biggest headline?

    February 7, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  12. Scott

    I have to agree with Biden. LaGuardia is the worst. JFK airport is 10x better.

    February 7, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  13. Gurgyl

    It is time for INFRASTRUCTURE.

    February 7, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. GetOverItAfricaIsBeautifulToo

    You have to see China infrastructure to believe Biden world, almost any city in China makes US infrastructure look like they are from the middle ages...(I have been to China and can attest Biden words)...

    February 7, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  15. Dennis

    He is so right, La Guardia is an embarrassment to NYC and the US. Every time I fly in/out of LaGuardia I say to myself, what do people think when they land at this airport, it looks terrible.

    February 7, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  16. steve dennison

    We could do so much in this Country and for the people of this country if and only if we pay our bills first before Politicians give our tax dollars away. I would love to buy a LG TV made in America by an AMERICAN. It is said that the cost would not be acceptable who spit out that lie. If more people work in good jobs and pay more taxes it would balance out. I would like to challenge Liberals who drive a Prius to do the math on how much fossil fuel is wasted and the amounts of pollution are generated from the cargo ships bringing these goods to our country from foreign nations it just doesn't add up to me.

    February 7, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  17. JW

    I suppose Uncle Joe hasn't been to Terminals C or D lately, because Delta/US Airways have improved them considerably. The city also started service on a new Q70 airport bus from Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Av, which is a very short ride from Manhattan. Passengers can wait in the new station complex which connects the buses to the E/F/M/R/7 trains.

    February 7, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  18. irishmanknowsall

    We The People have recognized the seriously overdue need for infrastructure re-do for about 30 years now. First, the excuse was the Vietnam War; then,Desert Storm; then Iraq War; then Afghanistan. American intrusions around the globe seem to always take precedence over taking care of ourselves first. We are among the most generous populations on the entire planet, yet we cannot seem to keep our govt. leaders focused on national needs instead of international ones. The long-term damage we have done around the world by invading other countries for real or imagined transgressions will afflict us for generations. VP Biden wants us to focus on transportation needs. How about a priority list? Electric grid would seem to need to be put at the top, roads, bridges, schools. The picture shown of a LaGuardia airport hallway gleamed with cleanliness and new signage. Perhaps the problem is an empty suit in the WH and a worthless, divided, non-cooperating, partisan Congress that our Empty Suit has decided he is just going to go around if he wants to get anything done. This tends to violate the whole purpose of Checks and Balances, but what else are his choices? We were promised troop withdrawal from Afghanistan this year, yet some American general wants to keep 10k troops there for three more years. The military industrial complex has been out of control for decades. Eisenhower was right. And we didn't listen.

    February 7, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  19. Gonzales

    Knock it down build a new one

    February 7, 2014 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. The Truth Hurts

    Joe Biden: The best life insurance policy Barack Obama could hope for!

    February 7, 2014 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  21. Dhruv

    I would expect CNN to be more judicious in using the descriptor as "Third World". Just for CNN's information, the term now is "Developing Countries". OR – Can CNN please describe how it categorizes the "third world" ?

    February 7, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. Jen

    I am picking nits but Mr. Biden, if you blindfolded an individual and walked them through an airport, I doubt they would have much impression at all as to its state. After all, i don't know how a third world airport would smell, taste, or feel.

    February 7, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  23. Peppe

    stumandoo – You must be closed minded. Government doesn't creat jobs, they creat service jobs and they are temporary and there is no real money coming in the country. Next, people creat jobs by producing and manufacturing things that can be used. Who said that conservatives are against creating jobs.

    Your thinking is so old fashion and socialist. Where is the money coming from to create jobs. The government doesn't profit anything out of it, but dig a bigger hole under itself with more debt. You need to get with the times.

    No socialist, profit os not greed!!

    February 7, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  24. Adam

    And he's just talking about the people at LaGuardia

    February 7, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  25. Graham

    Sounds like New York is about to get a lot of money from the feds for an airport.

    February 7, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
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