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. Mike

    Really, what's Joe thinking? Put the people to work instead of the handouts and we wouldn't be posting comments on this subject!!

    February 7, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  2. pete

    Third world? I went through LaGuardia recently and didn't have a problem with it. Maybe Old Joe is a little too used to limousine rides and Air Force 1.

    February 7, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  3. zr1100c3

    As long as lower taxes remain the focus of the politicians and the people, this will continue.

    February 7, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  4. gisthatright

    Take a look around, the whole country is falling apart Joe.

    February 7, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  5. Bill

    Biden just realized that America is starting to look like a 3rd world country? Why oh Why didn't he make this revelation public before the 2012 election?!?! I agree that train transport is awesome when it can take you where you need to go fast. Build the tracks right down the middle of the Interstate median! I'm guessing a lot of oil companies are paying some big campaign donations to keep public rail investment at a minimum.

    February 7, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. Fair is Fair


    Ah yes, the train. A good friend of mine was going o Albany from Niagara Falls with his wife to visit their daughter in college. He didn't want to deal with the winter weather so we started looking into the train. The trip that takes 4 hours by car takes 6.5 by train. You'll spend about $100 round trip in gas, wear and tear and tolls in the car vs $280 round trip via the train. Going by car you pick when ever you want to leave vs the train's extremely limited departure times. No wonder America has such a love affair with the car.
    Just call him "Boxcar Joe".

    February 7, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. Steven

    There's a reason airline crews have nicknamed that airport "La Garbage." It has been on my avoid list for the least 9 years, quickly followed by Newark. I refuse to work ANY flight going in or out of those horrible places.

    February 7, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  8. Gary

    Finally, something Biden and I agree upon.

    February 7, 2014 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  9. JC

    I agree, a lot of US infrastructure should have been re-placed at the turn of the century. A lot of its airports are oddly dated.... which would come as a surprise to most international travellers.

    February 7, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  10. Roga'

    I've flown from there countless times. He's not wrong.

    February 7, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  11. lgbarn

    Been to both La Guardian and LAX...both were terrible and LAX is the worst experience I have ever had. I fly out of Tampa Airport and it is easily my top airport. Well laid out and easy to get to your gaits with plenty of places to eat while waiting for your flight.

    February 7, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    No surprise.....We are becoming a third world country, thanks to your party!!

    February 7, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  13. bidenisajoke

    amtrak? yes if you like traveling with people whose idea of service make your local dmv seem like a vip club of exclusivity...

    February 7, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  14. Organic1

    Just wait till Biden comes out with the global rounding crisis...

    February 7, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  15. Il

    Oh, my politician. You probably do not suspect, but this country hopelessly got stuck in 70s of the last century. Should you visit, for example, NJ or Ny, please, visit some residential apartments where average people have to reside. You will be quite surprised. You gonna see a lot of derelict dwellings and museum-like kitchen appliences and cabinets that might even challenge some poor African countries. Yea....but we are still the best and exceptional..i just keep reiterating it-keeps sadness away.

    February 7, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  16. BOB

    It is NOT just that airport needs to have a face lift , other areas ....all over the US, are facing same problems too. Look around, travel around,, you will agree with... Sometimes wondering ...is it , are we in US ?

    February 7, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  17. Alex H

    Biden's statements are nothing new and should not surprise anyone. The society of civil engineers has been saying for decades that it would require 1 trillion dollars just to get our bridges repaired, never mind roads, airports etc. Most of these were built in the 50's with a projected 50 year lifespan.

    The irony is that near the bridge that collapsed in Missouri, threre is a $1 billion dollar stadium being built. Sad that sports are more important than basic infrastructure but I think the problem is that billionare's can't make lots of easy money from public infrastructure projects so there is little benefit for anyone but the public and thus nothing gets done.

    February 7, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  18. MD

    All you out there blaming the Obama administration better look hard. Its your GOP run House that has STOPPED every infrastructure bill that has been put in front of them. Oh, and every jobs bill too. And other bills that would help us low life, lazy never want to work ( even though i work a full time job that makes me around 30,000 a year but am still hanging on by a thread because of all the price increases in food etc.). Don't blame them, Blame you own GOP party. They will block everything this President wants to help us because they want the White House Plain an simple

    February 7, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  19. Shashi

    LaGuardia Airport is a joke. Usaully i dont agree with biden, but in this case its very true..... LaGuardia Airport is third world country .... Probably i feel i m under developed world..... It's horrible !

    And that goes with our nations airport JFK, Midway in chiacgo, Philly they are all horrible ...

    February 7, 2014 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  20. R Sanatorium

    Every time I come back to the US after being abroad I cringe. We have the worst airports, train system, freeways, bridges and general highway conditions you can imagine. It is truly disgraceful. Typically, the first thing a visitor sees when arriving into the country will be an airport, they must wonder where they are! Then they leave the airport and the bad impression gets worse. JFK is just a disaster, dirty and horrible. Then you take a grubby taxi on the crap roads into the city.......forgetaboutit!

    February 7, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  21. Dan

    Extend the runway into Flushing Meadow's Bowery Bay. Also, continue the light-rail that services JFK through the Kissena corridor. This would connect both JFK and LGA airports and service both the LIRR and the MTA no. 7 line. It's a no brainier.

    February 7, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  22. SL

    Missed a flight because having to go through security between 2 parts of the same terminal. Hopefully never have to go through the airport again for transfers. May even avoid airlines that use that airport as a hub.

    February 7, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  23. Edutron

    Someone is just starting to notice the effects of SOCIALISM! How about that!

    February 7, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  24. Bob

    This is CNN's top story? lol

    February 7, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  25. Helle Vind Schultz

    When I landed the first time in LAX I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought the plane had landed in a run down, third world country airport by mistake. Coming from Europe that really gave a bad impression of the US, when this is what you see when you enter the country from abroad.

    February 7, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
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