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. PHeywood

    As a frequent traveler to Hong Kong and Singapore, and having spent my share of hanging out in La Guardia, this article's premise is spot on. Any place that can consistently get you from the plane through to baggage in 30 minutes or less (including customs) is a +1 in my book. Both HKG and SIN can do that any time of day or night.

    February 6, 2014 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  2. Peter

    I have an idea. Let's put every able bodied person on unemployment to work on rebuilding our roads, bridges, and rails. Everybody would win, even the politicians would look like they were accomplishing something!

    February 6, 2014 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  3. John

    Economists and others were SCREAMING for this kind of investment when this recession started. After Bush got booted, we thought this would happen. After the I-90 bridge collapse in Minnesota, we thought it would happen. All we got for our tax money was a bunch of bankers and insurance company bailouts and some money funneled to already failed businesses like Solyndra. The economic boom of the 1950s on was made possible by the infrastructure upgrades of the New Deal Era. With all the trillions spent since 2008, what do we have to show for it?

    February 6, 2014 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  4. Fritz Hohenheim

    LOL, no Mr Biden you are wrong. If you take any foreigner in a modern airport, they know they are NOT in America. The time when America had a nimbus the modern is long gone. Everybody knows that America is crumbling. Come over to the here and now Mr. Biden and give up your delusions. Maybe you become a better Vide President.

    February 7, 2014 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  5. James

    He's an embarrassment to this country..

    February 7, 2014 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  6. Andy Daniel

    With all due respect to Mr. Biden, America's airports are only so-so – anyone who as ever flown into Hong Kong, or Singapore, or Seoul doesn't think it's an American airport – these are better than any of our large airports. But there are plenty of really bad airports around the world.

    LaGuardia has the chance to become NYCs airport of choice because of it's proximity to Manhattan, but without a quick rail link to Manhattan like JFK has it's never going to be popular.

    February 7, 2014 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  7. Thomas

    Joe is right ,

    LaGuardia airport is more like a movie set for a sixties movie , yet we love Mid Century Modern disfunction , it's so trendy .

    February 7, 2014 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  8. Third world country

    Please don't insult 3rd world countries. They have much better airports than LaGaurdia.

    February 7, 2014 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  9. Phong mach

    Does he even know what is a third world country?

    February 7, 2014 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  10. Rob

    The USA is the new Rome meaning–along with a collapsing Europe–the new superpowers will be the BRIC countries...

    February 7, 2014 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  11. Dude

    If I want to take Amtrak I have to go to the airport, catch a shuttle buss 130 miles to another airport. Then ride at least three local buses to get to the nearest station.

    I did ride Amtrak once and I would take it again. But, it is not an option.

    February 7, 2014 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  12. derwood

    You know, it must be tough to be able to fly in and out of so many airports around the world that you can know them just by the sounds when you're blindfolded. Gosh.. I'd give anything to be able to fly in and out of one of them.

    February 7, 2014 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  13. In total agreement

    We just transited to HKG from Auckland (NZ) on our way back home. It´s the best airport port with Singapore. It´s clean, huge, modern, efficient with a lot of shops.

    When we have to go Asia with stop over, Kong Kong and Singapore are the very bests.

    February 7, 2014 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  14. Walter

    God I wish this guy would run for President. Donald Trump could beat him.

    February 7, 2014 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  15. The Ice Man Cometh

    What's stupid is top politicians who think they can solve problems by letting people into this country who 'v e broken the laws to get in.
    How much money have the trespassers cost this country. Border patrol, schools systems , medical, food stamps, discounted bus passes, health care, housing, taxes, Anyone ever try to figure how much money the illegals cost the economy? sending money "back home" instead of spending it in the US where it can trickle into the system so the infrastructure can be rebuilt.

    Biden I reckon , is a pretty smart guy, able to take a bunch of numbers use arithmetic and come up with just one number... he cant however put two and two together!

    February 7, 2014 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  16. fidel

    brittany spears is NOT that hot, however

    February 7, 2014 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  17. Tomek

    Beiden is spot on. I was at LaGuardia only once. Must have landed there from Schipol, Amsterdam. The contrast between the two airports is still stuck in my head.

    February 7, 2014 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  18. Nathan Bolos

    What happened to America? China's airports, airplanes, and entire transportation system is cleaner, more modern, and years ahead of America. I'm currently sitting in Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, not only do they have free Wi-Fi (very common in China), but this airport is also one of the cleanest and most modern airports I have ever seen. Everyone speaks English, and no one is trying to scam me into buying a fake Rolex. Granted, I've never traveled out to Western America. But I have been to many airports on the East Coast, and the Chinese transportation system simply blows America out of the water. Even China's subway (metro) seem safer and more modern than the old Subway system in NY.

    February 7, 2014 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  19. Anonymous

    I always thought that you love for your country never meant to say she is not beautiful . I love everything about my lovely country lady; namely USA.I really do love my country and I never put her down. I fought for her, or should I say it .We men love our women, to me my country is a lady that love and respect.

    February 7, 2014 03:59 am at 3:59 am |
  20. brownsirts

    That's Joe. Sheesh. the only veep that could make Mr. Obama look presidential.

    Both parties stink. Thanks Demopligans, for politics as team sport.

    February 7, 2014 04:12 am at 4:12 am |
  21. Max

    well i can't say that i don't agree. they should just close laguardia and replace it with stewart international and islip

    February 7, 2014 05:06 am at 5:06 am |
  22. ditdahdit

    Communities are using the money they once maintained the roads and utilities with to bribe corporations into moving in or staying. While these same companies further erode the infrastructure while often enjoying tax abatements. As long as everything on the CEO's island fortress is new and shiny, he could care less.

    February 7, 2014 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  23. Mike

    Well Mr Biden you should feel right at home. Between you and Obama you are turning America into a third world Country. Congratulations!

    February 7, 2014 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  24. Lisa

    I couldn't possibly agree more. The only time I've ever been in NYC, it was to transfer planes at LaGuardia. I kept saying to myself after looking around, "THIS is the first thing many people see when they come to one of the most, if not THE most important, sophisticated city in America?" How embarrassing!

    Also, I've been in many airports in minor cities like Rochester, NY, and Portland, OR, which make LaGuardia look exactly like a third world country. It's a huge embarrassment to the city of New York, as well as the entire country.

    Not to mention the rest of this nations' infrastructure. Just insane. Bring the troops home and stop spending so much damn money in a country where we all know it won't make a difference anyway.

    February 7, 2014 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  25. Cruella

    Actually, Hong Kong is a far nicer airport than any I know of in the US. Singapore, Tokyo, even Bangkok, all of those big city Asian airlines are beautiful, full of shops, parks, lounges, attractions. They're clean. Even the bathrooms are elegant. In Singapore there were bathroom attendants and monitors taking a poll of how the customers liked the bathroom. Kind of puts America to shame.

    February 7, 2014 05:45 am at 5:45 am |
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