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. TommytheT

    remember this is lying Joe, on the golf course so close to the Amish school shooting he could hear the gun shots. The same golf course where the owner said Mr Biden was never there...his word is pretty much worthless.

    February 7, 2014 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  2. NewNEReview

    The USA will soon be a third world nation from coast to coast. Americans do not exercise any control over their government and leaders. As long as both parties are allowed to play politics rather than serve the nation's citizens, there will be NO representative democracy or the processes thereof. Simply, American's cannot do democracy-that was the fruit of our ancestors, not current Americans.

    February 7, 2014 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  3. Karen

    New York is a third world country.

    February 7, 2014 06:20 am at 6:20 am |
  4. Marie MD

    I don't know if third world, but it's quite old. Need a little revamping.

    February 7, 2014 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  5. Lord Vader

    If they wish to improve the transportation infrastructure, they should hire someone who actually worked in the transportation dept. such as truck driving, air, shipping and railroad.

    Not some nut job that sat behind desks all their lives and got their college degrees while living in mommy and daddy's basement and running frat parties.

    February 7, 2014 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  6. Minnesota Brett

    Funny how the Port Authority just happened to unveil a plan for improvement the same week... LaGuardia has been a dump for years. Thankfully they're planning on finally doing something about it.

    February 7, 2014 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  7. MH

    "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. " Actually the "Embarrassing and Stupid" part is the fact that he has been Vice President under Obama for as least half of the last decade. So what has he or Obama done for the infrastructure in America?

    February 7, 2014 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  8. robkoz

    They want to modernize our infrastructure yet the give BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars in foreign aid. Who is this clown kidding?!

    February 7, 2014 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  9. Truth_is_Truth

    If Port Authority that runs these airports is unable to modernize these airports on their own, then it's time to privatize this public monstrosity that is incapable of delivering services while bleeding the taxpayer.

    February 7, 2014 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  10. znasser

    Could agree more! I was stranded there from Jan 6 to Jan 8 during the winter storm and the number of issues I ran into (forget weather related cancellations and delays) were countless! Ended up renting a one way car driving from airport to Toronto Canada...

    February 7, 2014 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  11. ozzy3_97

    Reinvestment in our country was once...It is not more..:

    February 7, 2014 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  12. Dan

    Your administration rammed through 740 billion stimulus mainly for infrastructure years ago. Where did the money go? If New York thinks they need to invest in an airport, let them find the money for it.

    February 7, 2014 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  13. The Sheriff

    Our airports are pathetic.

    February 7, 2014 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  14. I OpT OUT

    Correction, new York, California and other democratic strong holds can easily be mistaken for third world countries.

    February 7, 2014 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  15. mark

    Oh come on Joe why should we the people own a railroad that the companies don't want to update . We know it would wok but you need to eliminate the owners and kick out the union and restructure a new one

    February 7, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  16. humtake

    Because making sure people are comfy cozy is MUCH more important than anything else we do. Yeah, ok.

    February 7, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  17. Gary

    People like to point to LaGuardia as an outdated and awful airport. I happen to live near both LaGuardia and Kennedy airports. When a friend or relative flying in asks me to pick them up at Kennedy, I shudder. Nothing is convenient at Kennedy. If you want to park and go into the terminal it's a nightmare. LaGuardia, on the other hand, may be old and a little gritty, but everything is close together and parking is practically on top of the terminals. When I'm flying, I always try to fly out of LaGuardia. It's just so much easier. Agreed, if you are looking for beautiful terminals LaGuardia is at the bottom of your list. But for functionality and convenience it can't be beat. NYC is known for being gritty. New Yorkers like it that way. Rock on, LaGuardia!!

    February 7, 2014 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  18. Anonymous

    When was the last time the VP was in the terminal at LaGuardia?

    February 7, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  19. RockyFjord

    Why should taxpayers foot the bill? Airports are private enterprises, no? When did the US become a State Market like
    the Soviet Union was? Or are we now following China's model of State Capitalism? Does this mean the Market State has failed like the State Market? No more Pox Americana and all that jazz? We bail out the big investment banks, corporations and Wall St,, now we want to bail out airports, with what? The rich pay no taxes, thanks to all you politicians sold out to corporatist fascism. We are going on 18 trillion in national debt, 25% of revenues go to paying interest on the debt, yet you want to just keep on borrowing and spending like it's a monopoly game for you! Enough!
    Stop the charades! Arrest all these clowns, let a jury of homeless people render a verdict.

    February 7, 2014 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  20. Ronald Moore

    What terminal in Laguardia has he been to? The Delta terminal has all those 3rd world ipads set up where you can order 3rd world food and surf the 3rd world internet...looks like it was renovated in the past couple of years. It may not be Hong Kong, but its probably closer to Hong Kong than to Haiti (aesthetically, not geographically)

    February 7, 2014 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  21. BOB

    I finally have to agree with something a politician has said. Yes, LaGuardia is a joke and you do feel like you're in a third world country. It's ugly, dirty and a it's a complete FUBAR.

    February 7, 2014 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  22. NC

    I laughed when I read the headline because it made me think of what my boyfriend (who is a pilot) calls LaGuardia. He calls it LaGarbage. And he sees whole 'nother side that the public doesn't get to see.

    February 7, 2014 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  23. mmsnc

    Six years in still haven't found a shovel ready project, where did the Trillion go?

    February 7, 2014 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  24. Jim Bob

    Biden for President? Perhaps not so much...

    February 7, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  25. Thomas Dorsey

    Biden is right. How can Congress allow the so called Greatest Country in the World have some of the worst transportation infrastructure? The President and a bi-partisan Senate have called for substantially more transportation investment to boost America's productivity, but they can't initiate legislation.

    That means have to lay the blame at the House of Representatives, who would rather fund another Middle East war, than rebuild America.

    February 7, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
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