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. Gambi

    It's a crime our infrastructure in this country has suffered so much..........are you listening congress? Oh I forgot if you passed any legisltion to improve our infrastructure it might make President Obama look good. Whatever you do don't help create jobs and never do anything that might improve the lives of the American people. If you detect a bit of sarcasm your wrong it's more like pure disgust.

    February 7, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  2. Skeptic

    Hey mayhem4u, have you BEEN to LaGuardia? Or are you just spouting political spin, criticizing Biden because of the party he belongs to? (that last part is rhetorical, since we know the answer).

    LaGuadia is a dump. It, and major parts of our infrastructure throughout the U.S., is in bad need of repair and upgrades. That is not a political position, it is a fact.

    Admit it – If a Republican said the same thing, you'd be attacking Obama for not doing anything about it.

    It is this silly partisan divide that is keeping this country from becoming the "shining city upon a hill" it once was.

    Thanks for contributing to that!

    February 7, 2014 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. Josh

    Well if we didnt give away billions to the 3rd world maybe we could have some nicer airports here and maybe pay teachers and cops too. O and maybe cut back on military spending by a measley 5% and then give that 5% to the war vets who put it all on the line for us rather than contractors like haliburton.

    February 7, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. Joe

    "Bobbi -You are the Vice President – do something about it. It's like everything else in this presidency – blame on someone else and do nothing."

    Not so fast Bobbi McSlobbi...Refer to the U.S. Constitution, Article 1 – The Legislative Branch, Section 8 – Powers of Congress. The Vice-president is powerless in this matter. Since the Vice-president presides over the Senate, the only thing he can do is vote.

    Soooooooooooooo, your issue lies with the Congress and the Constitution, not the Vice-President. Have you called them? Do you know how to reach them? If not, why haven't you? Have you made any efforts to change the constitution? THESE are the questions you should ask and the courses of action you should take before telling others to "do something." Let us know how it goes. 🙂

    February 7, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. js65

    This man is too stupid to be in any high office. He does not think about anything he says. A person of leadership takes a different path toward criticism.

    February 7, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. RoomWithAMoose

    Fun story about LaGuardia... I once had a kidney stone after a layover there... It took an hour for their emergency medical staff to get me... In the middle of an airport... Of course the entire time I was in tremendous pain from the stone... Jamaica hospital is hell on earth btw...

    February 7, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. akadhsu

    Stop saying "We are leading the world" when we are not. How do we lead the world when the amount of our debts and rate of unemployment are so high.

    Has he been to every place in the States, some are not much different than the third world.

    February 7, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  8. mike johnson

    ...so Mr. Biden ... are you saying your administration squandered all the monies that were allocated towards infrastructure improvements? ... I think they called a stimulus... I know at least out here in Hawaii, a great deal of that was spent on artworks for the airport and grants for women's organizations ... with the correct political attitude, I might add....

    February 7, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  9. Samuel Johnston

    Love ya Joe, no PC crap with you, telling it like it is.
    Stay on their a– before Ethiopia starts looking better. Forget about the tea-party buffoons they don't care about America anymore then the common terrorist as long as they get a divided from their oversea outsourced investment.

    They'll get us killed eventually.

    Biden 2016

    February 7, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  10. Canucken

    He's not far off, that place is a dump.

    February 7, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  11. Gambi

    Cut the money sent overseas to rebuild other countries and pay attention to the United States! We need it more than ever.

    February 7, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  12. spike

    If he doesn't like La Guardia, it's high time he realizes that the current policies have the rest of the country headed in the same direction

    February 7, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  13. AG

    Biden/Obama have had almost five years to do something about this and they haven't. If I were Biden, I would shut up. He is just pointing out issues that should have been addressed, but were not.

    February 7, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  14. Roger

    I can't believe we have a VP that's so ignorant of foreign countries. His comment about the HK airport indicates a naivete that should not exist in anyone allowed to step foot in the White House.

    February 7, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. Sam

    Mr. Vice President:

    This happens because career politicians like you grew the the size of the government and always spend more than what you take in. If we continue in this path I wouldn't be surprised if White house looks like a Third world country building. You do not need to blindfolded to see this!!

    February 7, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  16. Aaron

    The VP has a point... we all know that America is FAR behind in architecture and industrial design. You have to applaud the VP for the passion he expresses every time he talks about America and the possibilities for the nation.

    I think many of us lose interest by listening ONLY words he says and disregard the actual context and meaning of what he is saying... Surface level thinking by Americans is typical though so I'm not shocked by the outlandish comments this topic has warranted.

    February 7, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. ChristianNation

    Hong Kong has a pretty big and modern airport, but America was bankrupted by Bush and Christians.

    February 7, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  18. Suzy

    I'm not clear about the last sentence: "As of 2012, more than 25 million people passed through the airport." Is that per year?

    February 7, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  19. FKell

    @greg Too bad it is the GOP that keeps blocking every one of the bills that attempts to upgrade the infrastructure, saying it costs too much, and/or this is what private companies are for. The problem is that without the infrastructure like roads, bridges, rail, and airports, all those private companies lag behind because they can't get their products, or the employees and customers can't get to the businesses. But then again, the GOP are also the same people who say that the government doesn't create jobs....

    February 7, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  20. Joe NYer

    LaGuardia is a secondary airport to the immense JFK. It's not terrible during the week. Weekends? Very congested. It's fun landing there because you fly directly over Manhattan which, on a clear day, is very cool.

    February 7, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  21. TC

    I've been to both airports and he's right.

    February 7, 2014 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  22. someone

    It's is true!! We are the # 1 country in the world and our infrastructure should look like that as well.

    February 7, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  23. Paulo Carneiro

    Yes, the central building is a 3rd world building. I know this because I've been at LaGuardia and I live in Brazil where the infrastructure is terrible!

    February 7, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  24. Juju

    I fly 100k+ miles/year. Most airports are a tedious reality for me, but yeah...Laguardia is a nightmare. Highlights a legitimate problem though...our infrastructure IS borderline 3rd world.

    February 7, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  25. Gordon Boudreau

    To paraphrase Charles Frazier, if I had a brother in prison, and another at LaGuardia, I think I'd try to bust the one out of LaGuardia first.

    February 7, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
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