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. Joe

    If you made it nicer more people would want to use it. Then what?

    February 7, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  2. caroline

    it is disgusting filth the way America is becoming, shame on us Americans

    February 7, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  3. mennoknight

    Oh man, I am a Canadian from Northern Saskatchewan and I am taking 20 University students next week to New York City to rebuild homes in the Queens from Hurricane Sandy. We wanted to fly into JFK but we saved $150 at ticket to come into La Guardia. Is this the reason why?
    Oh well, it cannot be so bad, my airport only got ride of the stairs on a go-cart a few years ago.

    February 7, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  4. jean

    Biden is on the mark. I absolutely load going through La Guardia, specially if I just arrived from a "third world "country airport. For one get rid of the workers that cannot or do not want to speak English. If I want to hear something else besides English I could always live abroad.

    February 7, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  5. Buckn

    Oh, dear god, don't let the liberals be in charge of fixing this, I've already got enough hands in my pockets!

    February 7, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. nick

    He's telling the truth. Isn't that what we should want from politicians? Maybe he should constantly tell the truth and he might have a shot in 2016

    February 7, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    its tue what the VP said. this is such a pathetic airport and that too in a busy city like NYC. sure makes NYC look like a third world city

    February 7, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  8. loverpoint

    If people thought of the infrastructure of the USA they would think of it as a 1950-1960 ranch house that had never been had a new roof, new paint, still had the original carpeting, and all the electrical wiring and appliances were those of the 50's . The driveway would be cracked with potholes, the phone would be an old dial phone, the TV would be black and white, and the transmission would depend on rabbit ears. Now imagine trying to sell that house ?

    Now suppose a real estate salesman said ; Spend $100,000.00 on fixing up the house and i can sell this house for $! million would you make the investment ? Americans need to invest in America.

    February 7, 2014 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  9. Ruth

    I got news for you Joe, They ARE in a third word country!

    February 7, 2014 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  10. steve p

    Joe's right. too many flights and passengers shoehorned into LGA

    February 7, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. William G

    Seriously? When was the last time Joe Biden had to deal with a commercial airline terminal?

    February 7, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  12. American From Ohio

    What else does he expect it is New York where they have the most tyrannical government in the nation and the most reliant group of citizens in this nation. NYC is a dirty city!

    February 7, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  13. LT

    Hey, when you're right, you're right. Sometimes the truth hurts MY. We had the same issues with LAX but the city and county finally invested the money. LAX has moved from old and worn down to not too bad. But, it was horrid for at least a decade.

    February 7, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  14. chipper

    wow, just think if Romney would have said this

    February 7, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  15. Namejohn

    Mr. Mayor,

    Deal with it. NY airports are the worst.

    February 7, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  16. TonyInNYC

    Biden is totally right about this.

    February 7, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  17. john houston

    BIDEN WAS simply speaking the truth,the airport in question is a 3rd world mess.Come on NY spend some money and at least make it presentable to arriving foreign travelers.

    February 7, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. Steve D

    You know what...regardless of any political affiliation, maybe we need more guys like Biden who seems to have
    no problem kicking some ass and opening his mouth as to the reality of things in this country. We need to get
    back to basic's, and if we have to COWBOY things so be it. Biden 2016 " RAISE HELL CAMPAIGN " i'm on that wagon

    February 7, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  19. Jack Alex

    This guy is a big mouth with too much to say, I wish he would shut up, when's the last time he flew anywhere and paid for it out of his wallet?

    February 7, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  20. Biden :-(

    Good comment Joe – you and your pal have made this into a 3rd world country, so I agree with you!

    February 7, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  21. Nina

    I agree with Mr. Biden. LaGuardia is an embarrassment. I have lived in NYC all my life and have flown all around the world. NYC airports are a disgrace.

    February 7, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  22. Dave

    Thank you Joe Biden for speaking your mind without the MSNBC fear syndrome.

    February 7, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  23. JW

    Mike – the Port Authority and the city have tried to do infrastructure upgrades to LGA for the last two decades, but they were defeated time and time again by local opposition. Even the proposals to extend the MTA subway to LGA was defeated by the Queens district council that represents Astoria, and they still are on record as saying they'll fight any similar proposal. Rebuilding the entire LGA airport is a much bigger undertaking than most people realize – there simply is not enough space currently – its likely that a great deal of property would have to be seized using eminent domain, and anyone will tell you that in NYC it becomes a protracted battle. Airlines would likely have to re-route some of their flights to JFK or even Islip Airport during the reconstruction process. They best they could hope to do is try to alleviate the runway traffic issues by extending the runways. Hong Kong was lucky in that they had a large island with a relatively low population density off of which they could build a brand new airport from scratch to replace the old Kai Tak airport in 1998.

    February 7, 2014 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  24. Ferit Tuzer

    that's a naive comment by Biden. Not everything in the US is high tech, glitzy like you see in sci-fi movies. Most of the places you go to are gritty, why shouldn't La Guardia be?

    February 7, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  25. Lance

    This is the most truthful comment I have seen an elected official say in a long time!!

    He is on the money. The politicians in NY should be ashamed!!!

    February 7, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
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