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. Robert

    Nice to hear Biden telling the truth for a change.

    February 7, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  2. Samuel

    Renovating LaGuardia would help average people, not bankers. So it is not going to happen.

    February 7, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  3. Sean

    This observation is borrowed from Thomas Friedman who was quoted, after doing some world travelling, that after all that travelling, flying back into the US was like landing in a airport in the third world. I had the misery of flying through LAX last year, and wow, was that horrible. Travelling in Europe is a pleasure, in USA is mostly pain.

    February 7, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  4. In reality

    I love flying out of Laguardia versus JFK or Newark. Some areas are dated, but it has a "small town" feel – not a third-world feel. Not everything needs to have flashy neon lights and 24 hour starbucks.

    February 7, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  5. John McKibbon

    100% agree – worst airport I've ever been to ... not even close – the redevelopment is long overdue

    February 7, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. Jim

    Expand it all you want, use local taxes not federal

    February 7, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. Jim

    If any Conservative sad the same thing, – there would be a weeks long conga line of liberals calling him racist and insensitive. I love the liberal double standard.

    February 7, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  8. Joe Williams

    it's true! we're letting our infrastructure crumble out from underneath us. how about those roadways?

    February 7, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. Ron

    when I was working, I traveled about 8 months out of the year, been to almost every country, I can tell you that most of America's airports definitely need to be upgraded compared to others around the world, but one other thing, America's airports are three times as old as other countries airports because many of those countries have just recently finished building their key infrastructure such as airports!! But even the more up to date airports around the world are starting to look kind of shabby, for some reason, the other countries do not have a cleanliness code, Last trip I was on in Singapore the people changed diapers and left them under the seats in the terminal, people will bring food from home then leave the remains on the floors, no one cleans it up!! caps use the carts to open doors, so many of them suffer great damage, etc etc before long they will look like the typical airports in the congo!!!!

    February 7, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. nickG

    this is the only time i agree with him, the airport is shameful

    February 7, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. ever

    When I first read the title, I thought, I've said the same thing. But not because of the way it looked, I couldn't find anyone who spoke English.

    February 7, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  12. ronbro51

    Agree totally with the VP. I have been there 2 times within the past 4 years and it is a filthy, rude, disgrace of an airport. Every flight is late and switches gates at the last minute. I brought my foreign bride into her first port of entry and even she was shocked and she is from a third world country. When we missed our connection to Atlanta because she had to go through immigrations I was surprised to see that our connection had not left yet even though we were 2 hours late. We waited an additional 2 hours and the entire hold up was because there was nobody able to clean the commode on the small airplane. I volunteered to clean it if that would speed things up. The agent said I could not unless I was a union member and working for the airport. Pathetic!

    February 7, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. Ken

    LGA is an embarrassment. The operator keeps slapping a new coat of paint on it to give people the impression improvements are being made. What is needed is to consolidate it with JFK and EWR and build a new mega-airport offshore with all the appropriate rail and interstate links. The airport in Hong Kong has proven it can be done. And such a construction project would be a boon to the local economy.

    February 7, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. Leelanau

    Biden is only about three decades behind the times, based on that statement alone. Based on his blatant misogyny, he's more like 50 years behind....

    February 7, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    German wrote:

    ON the other hand, [Port Authority] bridge and tunnels tolls have been raised $$$ where the money goes ???
    Poor Administration.
    It goes towards paying the $150,000 salaries of people like Gov. Christie's former ally, David Wildstein, to fill jobs that never existed before, and have no job description.

    February 7, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. Romulan

    If I recall LaGuardia airport was built in the 50's. Let's put things into perspective here. Not too many countries have 60+ year old airport. Yes it's old and probably should be renovated. But you're lucky to have it. You can't compare LaGuardia to another airport that was built couple years ago. That would be saying the 100+ year old NYC subway system is dirty and old and is a POS compared to some other subways that was built in the last decade. Back then it was state-of-the-art. It just reminds you how advanced this country was (and still is).

    February 7, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. Don McCarthy

    Newflash...almost all of our infrastructure is third world standard. But, keep cutting taxes on the rich and offering subsidies and tax havens for corporations.

    February 7, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. American Worker

    Apparently he wants it to be government owned.
    That won't help it any.

    February 7, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. YoonYoungJo

    This is actually a great idea for numerous reasons. Its time to reinvest in America. Stop allowing trillions if dollars to flow over seas. "Reinvest America" should be the next Politicil campaign slogan.

    February 7, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |

    Spot on – as someone who travels internationally – our airports for the most part are pathetic, especially our international airports. Even small things like wireless – in Timor Leste you get free WiFi, but in most of our airports its either not available or you have to pay an arm and a leg to use it. We've got a long way to go and REALLY need to invest in our infrastructure!!

    February 7, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. richard

    The Delta and US Air terminals are good but went you go to SouthWest/AirTran gates, I compared them to a bus station the way the aisles and seats.

    February 7, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. alan

    The man is right. LGA is a total dump, BUT it is so damn easy to get into and out of the airport that it makes up for the lousy amenities. BTW, this is the only thing Biden has been right about in the past 30 years

    February 7, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. jamesu1

    Have you looked at how much the govt. takes from each dollar of your airfare.? 38 cents of every dollar goes to the govt. That is where the money for improvements goes. The airlines make 1 cent in profit. This does not think about how much of your petrol dollar goes to the govt.

    February 7, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  24. alan

    To those who want to use local taxes, I am sorry but most airports in this country are built by the feds.

    February 7, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  25. Dr. Latho

    Well, hey Joe, if your party, you and your boss didn't squander all those "shovel ready jobs" money (non-implementation of the Recovery Act) and didn't siphon and grease your union friend maybe we wouldn't have a rock n roll train system along the NE corridor and an upgraded LaGuardia airport...now we don't we don't trust you with penny, and a Canadian one at that.

    February 7, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
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