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. john

    Nothing wrong with using the train instead of driving your car, but it would be nice, if just once, a transit system could be designed, that would make a profit. Even a small profit, rather than to be subsidized each year with taxpayer money.
    It is these systems, that transport a few people, but require tax money from many people, just to operate.
    Remember the old saying; "If private money cannot be obtained for the financing, that should be a warning flag".

    February 7, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  2. righton

    Amtrak couldn't have paid for a better commercial. Biden is spot on!

    February 7, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  3. NealR2000

    I am American and I travel the world. I can attest that our airports are pretty bad. Not only are they old and unattractive, but they are also badly linked via rapid transit into the city centers. Many Americans have this completely mistaken belief that they live in the most advanced country in the world. This may have been true up until around the early 80s, but no more. This isn't just our airports, but also our roads, our railways, and our mass transit systems.

    February 7, 2014 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  4. iceload

    Without changing the corporate tax code, how is this going to be paid for, the middle class and small business are tapped out. I guess we can rely on our favorite tool, debt.

    February 7, 2014 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  5. mark nickles

    Well id hope they would renovate the terminal, been there a couple times and it is in my opinion a horrible airport.

    February 7, 2014 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  6. TomInRochNY

    Invest in infrastructure? That's insane. What good witll that do? We should give more money to people who already have a lot of money. That's the right thing to do. *Cue eye roll*

    February 7, 2014 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  7. John

    Might as well add Newark to the list!

    February 7, 2014 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  8. Alex

    America as a whole is going downhill to become a third world country, thanks to our political system and politicians.

    February 7, 2014 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  9. Jimmy Graham

    I believe Joe Biden if he says LaGuardia is a certified mess..Why would he lie to us?.But,the problem is the conservative flip floppers insist it ain't worth it..So,big fat rich New York City should get it done anyway,some how ,some way...

    February 7, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  10. Christopher R. Ponton

    As much as I disagree with the Obama administration and most government stimulus, one thing I can get behind is infrastructure investment since it is one of the things clearly mandated to the federal government and is one of the few things that actually makes money in the long run (No one today would say the highway system is a waste of money), and yes this should most definitely include expanding and improving our rail network along with roads and ports (air and sea).

    February 7, 2014 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  11. deflateddome

    You and King Barry are doing a wonderful job of turning the rest of the country into a third world as well..

    February 7, 2014 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  12. Gurgyl

    Why not we connect Amtrak to rural areas like Moorhead City, NC. New Bern etc.?

    February 7, 2014 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  13. Dean

    Knowing Joe, he was refering to the people who work at LaGuardia. It's easy to walk through parts of New York and feel like you're in a third world country. What's not always clear is 'which continent'?

    February 7, 2014 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  14. geo

    New york's infastructure problems dont begin or end with the airport; i avoid the whole north jersey new york area whenever possible

    February 7, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  15. Robert Soscia

    Maybe if we weren't spending billions of dollars in foreign countries, building them bridges and roads, we might have some money to take care of our own failing infrastructure....

    February 7, 2014 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    LaGuardia desparately needs a new central terminal. It is antiquated. The interior layout leaves much to be desired. It is like a 1980s mall that has side corridors that lead to the airplanes.

    There used to be a time when on any given evening, the central terminal was elbow to elbow with travelers and well-wishers. Now, the place is a ghost town most of the time.

    February 7, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  17. Elvis Camacho

    Well, finally somebody came with a great idea, im 33 years old and to be honest i havent seen a real proyect in the entire us, this country showld be in the number one spot in infrastructure. And yes, LGA is horrible. 🙁

    February 7, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  18. Adam

    We do need a modern boost in rail tech... Wish they would do some raised rail systems too.

    February 7, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  19. matthew

    what's insulting about this from a vice president of the united states is not that his statement is untrue, but that it is the very structure of the united states federal system that creates 3rd world infrastructure in NYC. the bulk of tax dollars collected in NYC goes to a corrupt state government in albany and a federal government that uses a majority of that income on the military. NYC pays far more in taxes than it receives in money for infrastructure. NOW, if NYC enjoyed the same tax status as hong kong does in relation to china, NYC would be as clean and modern as hong kong. that is the message people and the media need to reply to biden.

    another example people often use to criticize NYC is paris and london, but it is not a fair comparison as they are both capital cities. though NYC is the largest city in the US, it does not enjoy the same access to money a capital city does. that said, NYC can do more to end corruption and have better quality for the physical city.

    February 7, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  20. David

    LaGuardia is my preferred airport in NYC. JFK is a nightmare trying to fly out of.

    February 7, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  21. Joao Bicalho

    Third world country?! Isn't the correct term 'developing country'? Ouch.

    February 7, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  22. Ishmael Finn

    For once VP Biden is speaking sensibly. Having passed through LaGuardia many times, it really is like a third world country and no way would I use any of the stalls for a number 2. I'd hold it until I arrived at my destination.

    February 7, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  23. aworkingAmerican

    So in other words, this would have been an excellent use for the trillion dollar stimulus this administration spent on… wait… um… its coming… um… nothing?

    February 7, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  24. Dave

    Yes... It's fair to lump in La Guardia with the urban decay happening across the country. Of our "two parties" neither is going to address the issue...except to blame the other for doing nothing.

    We Americans voters, geniuses that we are, are right there sucking it all in. Biden is a Democrat... one of the bottom two most corrupt political parties in Washington. We will vote for Biden, or run against him... and yet somehow, US policy will not change for anything.

    Each party will blame the other. Fortunately for our dystopian government, Americans couldn't vote themselves out of a burning building... and we will keep on "choosing" between Republicans and Democrats and expecting different results than we've always gotten.

    February 7, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  25. Tim

    where was Guiliani during this lag time?

    February 7, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
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