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. Hamburger Boy

    LaGuardia is among the nations worst airports.. Ghetto

    February 7, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. walking in Chicago

    I thought O'Hare was in the running for a third world airport. The moving sidewalks in Terminal 2 have been out of service for over a decade. Half of the moving sidewalks work half the time. Camp O'Hare has lots of folding cots for travelers from delayed flights. The airport authority spends money on corruption but not much else.

    February 7, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. Filipe

    Ok, I used to like you so much Mr Biden! LaGuardia is a Awful airport. One of the worsts airports I have ever been in my life traveling all over the globe. When he says that LaGuardia must be a 3rd world airport he is saying that 3rd world countries are as awful as LaGuardia and that is offensive. Not smart for him to say that, not smart at all!
    Also LaGuardia needs to be fixed. NOT because china has a better airport, but because Americans deserve better.

    February 7, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  4. db

    If we just blindfolded someone and left him in a 3rd world country?

    February 7, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  5. Name

    I live in nyc and joe is right its vastly out dated ive seen more modern public bathrooms and our trains are also out dated they been on thee tracks at least siince 1980s its time to stop fixing old junk and get new stuff businesses like to put all the profits into their pockets and minimum into improvements

    February 7, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. Disillusioned

    The politicians are ensuring that we become a third world country. Just look our schools, business policies and taxation. We are run by a group of dunces that are only concerned about their circle of influence and not about the country as a whole, who's vision is short term to the next election, not for the long term.

    We are now governed by the far-left and the far-right and are paralyzed as a result as the rest of the world moves past us.

    February 7, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. mr sensitive

    being from a third world means never having to say you're Sorry

    February 7, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  8. KBNJ

    The best thing that could happen to this country is Biden getting the Dem nomination.

    February 7, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    The problem with LaGuardia in making any substantial improvements is the lack of real estate in order to do it. It is non expandable, either for better and more runways or larger and better terminals.

    February 7, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  10. JRW

    good lord, any NYer much less any traveller KNOWS how horrendous Laguardia is. its a dump!

    February 7, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  11. mannyv

    If you blindfolded someone then showed them Joe Biden, they'd think they were in the dark ages.

    February 7, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. cristian

    our wise vp is probably referring to the very abrupt and rude way of the workers in that airport.

    February 7, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  13. al

    HIcks be like: How dare he called us 3rd World COuntry?? This is 'Merica!!

    February 7, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. Steve

    I have big news for those who disagree with Biden's remark. The WORLD's TRAVELERS agree with him. We are completely unprepared for the next century in terms of our infrastructure. Everyone else is building airports, replacing bridges, repaving their highway system, building new hotels and making themselves a 21st century travel destination. Dubai is a perfect example. We, on the other hand, are doing nothing. While interest rates are at historic lows, we should be borrowing TRILLIONS to refurbish our infrastructure for the next 100 years. It would create 20 MILLION jobs, lift the standard of living and position us to be competitive in the business and travel markets. Kudos to Biden for getting the point across, even to those who will only listen with hateful ears.

    February 7, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. jamison

    They should expand Stewart Airport which is by Newburg. That whole area has grown significantly and the people in that area currently need to travel some 40 miles to get to either LAG, JFK or EWC.

    February 7, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  16. Big Burd

    Even if the airport does resemble a less developed country. He appears somewhat pompous with respect to them. He's too opinionated for my taste along with Obama. Many places in the USA resemble less developed locations, such as Camden, NJ.

    For some reason they act like celebrities and think we care about what sort of shoes they wear or what movies they like, I wish they'd just state fact and logic.

    February 7, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  17. Phil in KC

    I know a lot of people are going to blast Biden for his comments, but one of the things I like about Joe is that he says what's on his mind – whether you like what he has to say or not. That kind of honesty is refreshing, IMHO.

    February 7, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  18. Shipwrecked

    Forgot to mention an important fact. VP Biden is a third world VP at best and he should keep his trap shut.

    February 7, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. bill

    I fly in LGA weekly from Orlando. The new Delta Terminal is pretty nice, but Hong Kong is much nicer! Better Food!

    February 7, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  20. Lauging at you

    He is 100% correct.

    February 7, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  21. Al

    I'd be more apt to use the third world analogy with train travel. I'll never forget being on one trip where the train had to slow to about 10 mph and I asked someone why and was told the rails were so worn down that to go any faster was to risk derailment. I also remember an obese woman handing out nude photos of herself to everyone – kids, adults, she didn't care. Good thing about flying is it's over relatively quickly. Trains you're stuck there for a day or more depending on the length of the trip.

    February 7, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  22. Bookldy209

    It's not the content so much as the delivery. Biden continues to embarass and show his unsuitability as a potential presidential candidate. And I say that as a long-time Democrat.

    February 7, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Biden is right. La Guardia is third world airport. Look at the Asian and Middle Eastern countries airports, and even some European airports. So modern. They even have very nice airlines. Asian cities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo and Singapore are so modern. What is USA? Third world. Americans always boast they are the best in everything. You are just kidding yourself. Wake up if you haven't travel out of the USA. Other countries are catching up. America don't spend enough money on infrastructures and its citizens. Instead meddle in other countries' affairs and giving our monies to these countries corrupted government and sending our military there. For what? Wake up America, take care of own country first and foremost. Stop boasting you are the best. You are not. If you are the best, show it. Improve our infrastructure.

    February 7, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. Daniel Maddigan

    We're living off of infrastructure investments made decades ago. We need at least 2 trillion dollars worth of improvements. The longer we wait the more it will cost. With interest rates as low as they are, now is the time to do this and rekindle the economy as an additional benefit.

    February 7, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  25. John Q

    This is where American corruption lands an airport. Yes. Pun intended.

    February 7, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
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