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. Betsy

    ACtually he isn;t to far off the mark. I live in CT and work in NYC and when a limo drive recently asked me why I wasn't flying out of LaGuardia because the fares there are cheaper, I said, only people who don't live in this area fly in and out of LaGuardia–the rest of us know better!

    February 7, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. Brian

    @Michale – They can put it in Newark or Queens. I just wouldnt bother to rebuild it.

    February 7, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  3. bluejayFL

    Well, Obama tried to improve infrastructure since 2009, roads, bridges, schools, airports, etc. and opposition blocked, sighting debt, anyone with a brain knows the teapublican strategy: make prevent the Democrats to do anything positive so we can win the election. Good luck with that!

    February 7, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. VEW2012

    The reason is we are wasting our resources on the military industrial complex while our infrastructure is falling down around us.

    February 7, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. Tyler Durden

    USA: 40% corporate tax rate
    Hong Kong: 16.5%

    February 7, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. Young

    Both LaGuardia and JFK airports are embarrassment to not only the city but to the country. Everything should be overhauled and start a new for both airports, including the people work there.

    February 7, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  7. Pat Langlais

    Biden, obviously hasn't been to Newark Airport. Mankind has mastered nuclear power and sent people into space, but Newark can't get the basics of functioning restrooms figured out.

    February 7, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. Awda abu Tayi

    Who hasn't flown in or out of LGA at least once in their lifetime, and though it was awful? But it beats Kennedy and other metro airports hands down. I agree with Vice President Biden to a degree, but he might want to choose his words a little more wisely next time, especially if he is thinking of a run in 2016. "Shooting from the hip" sometimes only wounds, and makes the target angry.

    February 7, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. sww

    Only in New York/New Jersey can it take $27 million dollars to do a $8 million dollarr upgrade.

    " 10-year $27 billion capital plan that creates more than 126,000 jobs and invests $8 billion in modernizing the region’s airports"

    February 7, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  10. LaGuardia Fan

    I love LaGuardia – may not be beautiful, but it is close to downtown and all the burroughs. You can get there fast and via public transportation much easier than JFK or any of the other airports around. Then, they are always pretty good at getting you on the plane and out of there. It seems that everyone needs to have a fancy schmancy eating area and modern architecture. But give me LaGuardia where I can go go go any day over those others

    What I couldn't believe was on the top list was the Netherlands airport. That place is a nightmare to change planes in. Plus, you have to deal with the Dutch who apparently hate Americans.

    February 7, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  11. LordVokk

    I'll admit that I lean to the right. There are some great comments on here. I believe the big picture is leadership in this country. For the last decade it seems that we are more about beating the other polictical party up, than to actually do something great for the entire country. I resently watch a few old TV shows on a popular streaming site, shows from the early 90s. Sadly, the issues as a country we had back then are the same ones that surface every election since then. We really need to put something into place that holds our elected officials accountable. Yes, I know we can elect not to vote for them, but if each party is just as corrupt as the next, do we get any relief – or just a different pile of do-do?!

    February 7, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  12. bob

    LGA is tiny and overcrowded, but I love that when I land, I could be in a cab in 5 minutes. It's so small that you hardly need to walk anywhere. Try that in Chicago!

    February 7, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  13. Carla

    Gosh, I hope he wins the dem primary. Can you imagine how much fun the late night hosts will have...Their ratings will sky-rocket...Geez.

    February 7, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  14. NotAVoterButAConserv

    I hardly ever vote, but when i do, I will vote Joe Biden.

    February 7, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  15. Follow

    What happened? Ask the Unions Joe, who own the politicians, who sent all the jobs overseas (both sides) Joe! That's what happened!!!

    February 7, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  16. randomguy9999

    What's everyone complaining about? We've gotten so silly in this country to the point where one's not supposed to say anything negative, even if the statement happens to be true. Has any of the complainers ever seen LaGuardia airport?

    I've been to LGA about a thousand times and it is one of the worst major airports in the world.... no question.... for New York to have an airport like that is embarrassing

    February 7, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  17. JA

    I have been flying to LaGuardia for many years and it's an embarrassment for New York City, so I think the V.P. is dead -on with his comments. The AA terminal is particularly bad, where it is not uncommon to see portable A/C units piped up though open ceiling tiles and large gray trash cans catching water from roof leaks. In fact, I've seen the same can, in the same location, at the same gate for more than a year. In fairness, Delta has renovated their terminal, and it is now very nice; however, if you arrive on a regional jet, the plane will most likely have to remote park and you are brought in by bus, because the airport does not have enough gates to accommodate the volume.

    February 7, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    LaGuardia is one of the nations most horrid aiports... It's right up there with Dulles airport in Washington DC... LaGuardia though, is the pits...

    February 7, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  19. Sashatree

    Biden speaks the TRUTH! As a life long New Yorker, I've flown in and out of LaGuardia countless times. It is a pathetic, broken down, and embarrassing airport when compared to every other airport I've been through. Why demonize Biden for TELLING THE TRUTH?! GOOD FOR HIM!!!!

    February 7, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  20. Philip

    I love arriving at LaGuardia! It sets the tone for the whole urban NYC experience. (No intend to set off irate New Yorkers cause I think the city is great.)

    February 7, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC


    I don't know how they can fix that airport without shutting it down and demolishing it. And the only way they can do that is to build a new airport at another location which can be opened before the shutdown. But where would they put it?
    LaGuardia's terminal was built in the 1940s, and it still looks like it. When Newark Airport was constructed in the 1970s, it supposed to have served that exact purpose to a degree. Somehow, it just didn't work out that way. Remember, too, that NYC was gonig throuigh a threat of bankruptcy in the 1970s. Nothing moved forward as planned.

    February 7, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  22. ogletreeseo

    We are no longer the wealthy nice country we used to be. Almost all the money is held by a few people who don't use public transportation. The average income of the US is $50k a year and 60% of US makes less than $60k a year. That is household income which means most of those incomes represent the income of two people.

    Why would the Gov spend a bunch of money to help us out. We can't afford nice stuff. The only way we can have nice stuff is for the rich to help out and they don't want to. Spending money on others is charity which most rich people have very little of. They like to disguise their hatred of the poor as a contempt for communism. They love communism when it helps them. We have reverse communism in the US. We take from the poor so the rich can live better. There never really has been communism in the world. True communism would make sure that nobody lived below a certain level and above another.

    February 7, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  23. berniecat@outlook.com

    and it is ! just like most of America has become thanks to the neocon fascist who have been holding us back on everything they can ! the refusal to invest in Americas infrastructure is a prime example and yet the neocons love 6 trillion dollar wars unfunded ! we are 37th in the world for healthcare and yet #1 in cost ! the real transportation bill would have put millions back to work , but the cons couldn't have anything good happen on Obamas watch can they ? their pledges and allegiances to their lobbyist says it all ! until the gop is put in its place they will continue to obstruct our growth !

    February 7, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  24. Hamburger Boy

    LaGuardia is one ghetto airport... Very crappy

    February 7, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  25. Ulysses-AZ

    Hahahaha... he may be right, but VP Biden just never appears to miss an opportunity to stick his Oxfords as far down his throat as he can.

    February 7, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
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