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. Dean


    53 minutes ago
    Biden: LaGuardia like a 'third world country'----Welcome to the future of the U.S. under Obama.

    February 7, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  2. meknine

    I found the airport dark and poorly lit. It smelled socks, urine and booz

    February 7, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  3. Mark

    Glad to read LaGuardia hasn't changed since the last time I flew there, about twelve years ago. At least they've cleaned the bathrooms since then, right?

    February 7, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  4. jimcolyer

    Obama's goal is to reduce America to third world status.

    February 7, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  5. Joe

    We can certainly invest billions in weaponry and state-of-the-art fighter jets we don't need, but not our own country.

    February 7, 2014 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. John James

    Look Biden, I stood on line for hours to vote for you and President Obama twice. I'm a true New Yorker; now when you insult LGA I take offense for the entire new York. Think before you talk!

    February 7, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  7. Rembrant

    In America, the dollar is stronger than common sense. enough said.

    February 7, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  8. HARM

    Instead of spending over 1.5 trillion dollars on a two front war, we could have rebuilt all the major airports, laid to new rail, and provided broadband fiber internet access to all the major cities. What have you done, Mr. Biden?"

    While Democrats are plenty dysfunctional and corrupt, if memory serves it was Bush-Cheney, not Obama-Biden, who invaded Iraq and spent that $1.5 Trillion (actually closer to $3 Trillion). And for the record, the Democrats have been pushing for greatly increased infrastructure spending at home for 5+ years, only to be blocked by Republicans at every turn.

    Occasionally, there really is a difference between the two parties. Not often enough, but in this case there is.

    February 7, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  9. David

    Maybe biden can cut some taxes so they will have some money to upgrade?

    No, I doubt he would want ot get rid of all the progrmas he supports. LaGuardia will stay a thrid world country then.

    February 7, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  10. Kako

    I'm always amazed at why most US major cities have such outdated airports. Most major European/Asian cities build entirely new airports within the last 20 years and these airports with their new standards age extremely well. Instead of squeezing terminals to existing plots they have to make up their mind and build on big scalable spaces in the suburbs with train connections to downtown. It's being done all over the places and the longer they wait the more it will cost them to build with land/construction costs (look at the HSR in california). Someone mentioned the Hong Kong Airport, it was actually built during the last colonial days under British rules using entire funds from Hong Kong's coffer and it costs $20B (including supporting infrastructure) in the 90s. But you know what? It's the No 1 air cargo airport in the world right now and it's gonna be at capacity before 2020. People neglect that an efficient airport that have scalable capacity = money. Freight carriers would come and more airline will use you as a focus airport for layovers as long as you are situation well geographically.

    February 7, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  11. jjjscott

    Did Biden miss the job opening on the Tonight Show when Jay retired?

    February 7, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  12. Eddie Vanmeer

    LaGuardia looked like a 3rd world airport 30 years ago, you can't blame our current pres. for this.

    February 7, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  13. stacie

    This is why we lag behind. No one wants to hear the truth about anything. Just excuses. I also love the train. I took it from Alliance to Florida and had a great experience. Amtrak personnel are awesome, very nice, always helpful AND u can get a real meal. Come on, America, quit being offended by everything and not being accountable for anything.

    February 7, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  14. TAK

    >A while back, I was picking up some exchange students at LaGuardia that were from a REAL 3rd world country.
    >1 of them was really quiet during the trip to the dorms. When I asked him if he was okay, he apologized and said
    >that he was already homesick. Apparently, he was expecting a grand and modern airport upon arrival to America.
    > Instead, he said the airport reminded him of home.

    That's an amazing story, considering LaGuardia is NOT an international airport.

    February 7, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  15. karek40

    Biden needs to go to a few third world airports. He hasn't got a clue.

    February 7, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  16. Col B

    And this jerk sees no reason not to run for President? OMG–he's dumber than ODUMA!

    February 7, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  17. The Dudesta Manifique

    Ha! Awesome. Deplaning at LGA is like descending into the third level of hell. But – they do have lots of places to charge your phone.

    February 7, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  18. NewIdeas

    Biden may be correct in our need to invest in rail infrastructure. But, Amtrak is too expensive for most of us to use. It's cheaper and faster to go by air.

    While he was in the Senate, he probably enjoyed the benefit afforded government employees in the DC area of a transportation subsidy written into the annual Transportation Bill "to encourage the use of public transportation." Unfortunately, it's only given to government employees, and the rest of us pay full fare.

    February 7, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  19. Nixxon

    LaGuardia was a dump 20 years ago and is still rotten. You can't put this at the feet of the current Presidential administration. You can blame x-NYC mayors such as Lindsay.

    February 7, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  20. clos

    Funny.. we build stadiums for Football, Baseball, Basketball, etc every stinking year...
    Can't remember the last time we even began to renovate a dang airport...
    Sad but true!

    February 7, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  21. Snoopz

    >A while back, I was picking up some exchange students at LaGuardia that were from a REAL 3rd world country.
    >1 of them was really quiet during the trip to the dorms. When I asked him if he was okay, he apologized and said
    >that he was already homesick. Apparently, he was expecting a grand and modern airport upon arrival to America.
    > Instead, he said the airport reminded him of home.

    That's an amazing story, considering LaGuardia is NOT an international airport.


    CLASSIC – why let a few lies get in the way of a great made up narrative?

    February 7, 2014 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  22. Pat O'Toole

    I love New York City. I visit often, and intend to return soon. But I must say that I find LaGuardia to be a inefficent air hub. Last time I was there, was 12/10/13, at 5:00am, on the ramp to security i would say there were between 500 and 1,000 people all waiting to go through screenings. 1 screening terminal was open. after several flights were delayed due to the back-up at security, 3 more opened up.This was not the fault of TSA..but of management. TSA has always acted (at least to me) professionally, and with respect. other airports I've been to, have never encountered these problems. Chicago, Detroit, Denver, even Atlanta seem to maintain their properties better than LaGuardia. I know it is a older facility, but come on, upkeep does not need extend to maintance.

    February 7, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  23. Susan

    Good. I'm not a Biden fan, but PANYNJ needs a kick in the nutsax for letting that airport run down so badly. And where the heck is the mass transit to the LGA? JFK has the airtrain, LGA has the 33 bus. Boo.

    February 7, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  24. bailee

    With the media pouncing on every last word ANY politician may speak these days, it simply is not safe for Joe Biden, or any other politician, whether it be Democrat or Republican (and that includes the President of the United States), to grant an interview with a media outlet, because you can bet your life some little word or words that are spoken will turn into a "GRAND SLAM:" remark, just like this one did. The media just LOVES to spin tales like this one, so Politicians beware!! And think very carefully of granting any interview to any of the media frenzies!

    February 7, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  25. John Daniell

    He ought to know. He's a Third World standard vice president.

    February 7, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
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