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. JohnnyNight

    Anyone who thinks LaGuardia is not a great airport is an idiot....

    it's the only airport in the northeast where you don't freeze in the middle of winter..

    All the other modern pieces of junk with 200 feet high ceilings are like ice boxes in Siberia..

    Give me old-fashioned LaGuardia any day over those new pieces of junk any day..!!

    February 7, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  2. madmanny

    LaGuardia – may not be pretty but gets the job done
    Biden – may not be pretty but...what is his job again?

    February 7, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  3. boyscout

    Finally an aristocrat from our out of touch government gets to feel our pain that we face every day based on "their" decisions.

    February 7, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. Shills

    If this Lawyer says that about LaGuardia airport than what does he think of Amtrak? He supports it with tax payer money for decades because he rides it as well.

    February 7, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  5. lejaune

    Biden is so out of touch. There are many places in NYC or many other cities that look like 3rd world. Jamaica Queens is just like Jamaica.

    February 7, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. nick

    The airports in NY suck- and have for a long time- this is one of the very few times I agree with clueless Joe. BUt it is pretty funny coming from a 3rd world politician-

    February 7, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  7. bryan

    Its ok this is a Third World administration

    February 7, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  8. fred

    totally agree, been saying for years they need to rebuild it.

    February 7, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  9. bryan

    its better than Newark which every surface seems to be covered in seman and coffee grinds

    February 7, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  10. joy

    VP Biden stop the distractions from the outragous BILL CALLED THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT its now a big problem, many loss coverage in just the worse time, Many can't get coverage..the coverage is not affordable!! And it is killing one of the US's biggest employment revenues and GNP the "INSURANCE BUSINESS" it seems that every industry has had the massaquered of Pres Obama I can't find one industry that has flourished. Why is the VP focusing on this when there are so many other things to worry about. The taxes are already too high and oh well the airport works!!!

    February 7, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  11. geraldine

    when foreign business people fly in, first appearance is important!

    February 7, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Watch out NE corridor soon you will have Amtrak and no roads! The good news, Amtrak will deliver to the airports

    February 7, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  13. happyfrenchman

    He is kind of right. I think Newark Airport would fit in with that description as well. I am sure they will be all offended but my experience is alot like his.

    February 7, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  14. happyfrenchman

    I have said the same thing about Newark. I was there one time and I swear there were Pakistanis cooking in the back corridors. It was nuts.

    February 7, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  15. Joe

    I feel another "shovel ready" project coming on...

    February 7, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  16. John

    "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," – No. I'd think I was in Hong Kong. Or somewhere else in East Asia. Anyone who travels a lot knows that American airports are concrete hell holes.

    February 7, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  17. Jim Rome

    Investing in this airport is easy. Just take some of the $700 BILLION we spend on defense every year, and fix this place, oh, and repave every road in the US two or three times.

    February 7, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. Scott

    Yeah, he's not wrong about LaGuardia. It's a terrible airport. I think the only airport I've been to that is worse is Charles De Gaul, but that's like a Kafkaesque nightmare below 3rd world standards.

    February 7, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  19. Lou45

    The administration he is part of has worked hard to bring us down to third world status. One more Obama accomplishment!

    February 7, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  20. cfd

    Just when you thought this administration couldn't get any worse

    February 7, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  21. SkrewDriver

    Biden is wrong. The entire US has become a third-world country. Look at education, the public infrastructure, the spread between low- and high-income households and at our financial system – constantly on the brink.

    February 7, 2014 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  22. Circus Circus

    Biden is right. Same goes for JFK. The whole US has turned into a TWC. Thanks to our politicians – the biggest contributor to our problem is Immig Act 1965. Read Dr Kevin MacDonald's academic paper on whose behind this and other efforts to "diversify" our nation.

    February 7, 2014 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  23. Bill inVA

    Setting aside for the moment that LGA seems to work just fineā€¦and I agree it isn't the prettiest...If Biden were so concerned he could have convinced his boss and the other Democrats to use part of that $800 billion stimulus to actually do something like upgrade a LaGuardia. Where did that money go? Certainly didn't stimulate the economy. 'instead of ethanol subsidies, for example, maybe invest in something like LaGuardia. Or instead of paying out money for nothing for unemployment benefits and food stamps, give jobs to people to rehab LaGuardia and critical infrastructure.

    February 7, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  24. Susan

    He should visit Miami International – can't find anyone who speaks English and what a dump!!

    February 7, 2014 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  25. Bill, Bloomington Il

    If someone took into an airport blindfolded and asked me where I am I would say dont know. I am blindfolded.

    February 7, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
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