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

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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. peter

    Biden is correct and his comparison is very accurate.

    February 7, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. Yosri

    The VP is making an important point and is right on the money. Kudos to him for saying it the way he said it. As a business traveller, I see and say same thing every time I travel to Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore or even Malaysia. La Guardia airport and many other US airports are way too old and need major upgrades but at the same time the cost of such upgrades should be funded from cuts in spending in the many other items that don't add any value to us as a nation.

    February 7, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  3. David

    As a resident of New York and a soon to be resident of Queens, NY, driving by LaGuardia daily and flying out of there a few times each year, Biden (in spite of his boisterous comments) is absolutely correct about our outdated airport and the need to modernize American infrastructure!

    February 7, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  4. Patrick

    Sounds like a political pitch i.e. when I'm president I'll find you(NY powermongers) a billion dollars

    February 7, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. Adam

    I like it. Closest commercial airport to the city. The short runaways are kinda fun and you always get great views flying in. It would be nice if they could connect it to the subway. There's a reason the shuttle flights go in there.

    February 7, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    So true..i m with joebiden..vp

    February 7, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. Steve

    I have been to Barbados (more than once). The fact that they are ranked higher in infrastructure quality compared to the United States is hilarious. Their roads are AWFUL and completely unmarked (with no shoulders) (there are only a half-dozen roads wider than two lanes), there is no rail system whatsoever, and the airport is about the size of the one in Monroe, Louisiana. It is a beautiful country and I realize that you need perspective since it's a country of only 250,000 people, but NOTHING about their infrastructure is of higher QUALITY than the United States.

    February 7, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  8. NameJay

    The article is Missing the point and misleading the conversation that we all need to have. The fact is "we have to reinvest in US" not just in that one airport or train but in so many others.

    February 7, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  9. nk

    Oh how I value his jaded opinion.

    February 7, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. John Tater

    Let's keep the tax code the way it is. Maybe Bill Gates will build us an airport some day.

    February 7, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. mitchyj

    We continue to slide further and further down the list. But the far right would rather pump billions into wars overseas.
    What a bunch of creeps.

    February 7, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  12. E. Dean Frederick

    Totally agree with the Vice President! I Love New York, and just love to be on final approach up the East River, make the towards the runway at LaGuardia, and then we land. All of the majestic beauty of My Favorite City is lost once inside the airport named for oe of the city's greatest Mayors.

    February 7, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  13. Zooper

    Yes La Guardia is a shock, especially to foreign travellers like me. LAX is also rather glum when you compare them to other major airports in the world.
    Form centreforaviation.com an article regarding funding. They suggest that " Canada Provides a Working Model". It certainly has worked for the most part.
    "Canada de-federalised its airports several decades ago, devolving nearly complete control to newly created local airport authorities. Instead of getting federal grants, each airport is free to set its own Airport Improvement Fee — essentially an uncapped PFC. The result has been significant improvements in airport capacity and quality, not a proliferation of “Taj Majal” terminals (as feared by US airlines).

    Conservatives and tax-cutters should welcome a deal that would significantly cut AIP in exchange for having the federal government excuse itself from telling locally governed airports how to fund their capital improvements. This is precisely the kind of devolution many of them are supporting when it comes to highways and transit."

    February 7, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  14. Hadenuffyet

    Bridges collapsing , roads deteriorating , buildings rendered useless . I know this is a constant issue , but it's growing disproportionately , all the tax cuts, the skewed trade practices , it's all contributing to the run down. Face it , one day we'll wake up finding it's time to pay the piper , and you won't like it much.

    February 7, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  15. Jeff

    I have stopped flying on my business trips from DC to NY. The Amtrack service from downtown DC to downtown NY is not only cheaper, but typically faster when you add in airport security lines, transfer from the airport to downtown, and the likelihood of some sort of flight delay.

    But to the larger point, even when I'm driving on the road, I appreciate investment in other modes of transportation since it helps take vehicles off the already clogged, overburden highways and city streets, and it also lowers fuel usage, which helps keep down fuel costs.

    February 7, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  16. Victor

    I've been to the Hong Kong airport and it is fabulous. I would say that it is better and nicer than LAX, Ontario, and Phoenix Sky Harbor. The bathrooms were crystal clean too. It is not to say that these American Airports are not well kept (they are pretty good). While I am sure that LaGuardia is as bad as described by Biden, it is unfair to single it out for not comparing well to Hong Kong's airport.

    February 7, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  17. bp

    Fine, you pay for it

    February 7, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. mitchyj

    Natalie, the point is we can wave the flag all we want but our trains, roads, bridges and airports are far behind many developed countries. It's part and parcel to Amerca's steady decline. Sad but unfortunately fact.

    February 7, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  19. Dave

    Laguardia is a dump, plain and simple, but it isn't dumpier than many regional airports in Europe that I have endured. But that isn't the point. A dump is a dump, and it badly needs an upgrade.

    February 7, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. StormySyndrome

    Looks like the city of New York has a decision to make. They need to decide whether they want a new airport or not. If so, they should take it upon themselves to finance and build one.....if not.... Biden can suck it up. I find my favorite sports teams field to be stuck in the 50's....but that doesn't mean the rest of the country should be charged with paying for it.

    February 7, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  21. BESMART123

    After traveling around this country and to other countries, LaGuardia is one of the worst I've been in. Unfortunately, pride is no longer of importance in this Country of ours only profit. It does not matter how bad our trains, airports, or roads are as long as they produce green. If something does not produce we dont fix it we close it.

    February 7, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  22. Anton

    LaGuardoa is better than flying into Cincinnati.

    Where you have to go on buses from the plane to the terminal.

    That is an accident waiting to happen.

    February 7, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  23. Brian Remsberg

    Hey here's an idea, how about linking it to public transit other than buses? The worst part about the airport is the ground transport. The interior is actually MUCH improved in the past 5 years.

    February 7, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  24. mitchyj

    Then again, the criminals we elect (from both parties) have little regard for anything but lining their own pockets.

    February 7, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  25. fuzzynormal

    I don't know what he's talking about. Go visit any third world country, their airports are almost always in better shape than those in the U.S.

    February 7, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
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