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. Donm

    Extend the NQ subway to LGA.

    February 7, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  2. Courtney

    JFK is just as bad...

    February 7, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  3. Jimbo

    The first time I visited New York, in 1988, I flew into LaGuardia and immediately thought, "Wow! This is actually worse than Texarkana Regional." I had never been to a third-world nation but had done plenty of time in third-rate towns, and LaGuardia certainly fit the bill. I've lived in NYC since 1992 and am aghast every time I fly into LaGuardia and see that "WELCOME TO NEW YORK" sign with the red apple. Jeez, some welcome.

    February 7, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  4. NuclearFisted

    Showing his true bourgeois colors

    February 7, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  5. dj

    If the VP wants more investment in our infrastucture lets stop spending billions of dollars on wars we can't win and aid to countries that hate and spent those dollars to rebuild our own country. We have middle class families going to food banks. Keep the money here!!

    February 7, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  6. Chris

    The reason LaGuardia looks like this is because workers for the PA of NY&NJ have been working without a contract for nearly a decade. That means no raises, no added benefits, no bonuses for nearly ten years. I'm not surprised the airport looks like crap when you don't pay the people to maintain it.

    February 7, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  7. stumandoo

    Oh heaven forbid that goverment can actually create jobs, something conservatives are supposedly against. Obama has been saying this all along, that goverment can use private contractors to build infrastructure and help create jobs, private sector jobs in America. How simple is that DAH!!!!

    February 7, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. Woody

    This only shows how out of touch politicians are with America as America is bled dry of what made America a great country at one time .

    February 7, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  9. steve dennison

    Must we remind BIDEN that our administration is who built the airport in CHINA with our American Jobs for goodness sake every elected official is guilty on this issue. If you send all of our CAREERS not retail part time jobs but CAREERS to CHINA "We The People" have no chance to succeed and or have the ability to build Mr. Biden the luxurious airport that DICTATORS such as him deserve to travel thru.

    February 7, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  10. Anonymous

    Sounds like a Third World VP to me.

    February 7, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  11. Kevin

    "Look folks, not a joke, we need to reinvest and modernize our whole infrastructure".

    No joke huh? Well, you can start any day, we've been waiting for 5 years...

    February 7, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  12. Mr. Bungle

    So is Wilmington, Delaware.

    February 7, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  13. Duck Fallas

    Not true. In a third world country, they all speak the same language.

    February 7, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  14. jonathan p.

    this isn't news,it's history that has never improved,anyone who has traveled abroad or spent a lengthy amount of time studying foreign infrastructure knows the u.s. is becoming increasingly embarrassing,this country is far from poor and there is NO EXCUSE for this,in mexico sure,but not here,i love and care about this country and always will as i'm american but each year that passes,a new tear developes in worry of what our home may look like 20 years from now.

    February 7, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. Reporter?

    Does Joe realize how much Chinese Communist slave labor was used to build Hong Kong's International airport? Actually he probably does and I suspect he is suggesting that the taxpayers be further enslaved to make a grand airport come to life in LaGuardia.

    February 7, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. Robert Hall

    My home airport is LaGaurdia and I was just in Hong Kong. I thought the same exact thing. I've never agreed with anything Biden as ever said but he is absolutely right about LaGaurdia.

    February 7, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  17. wendel

    The V.P. is right on. Yet building our infrastructure and putting people to work does not sit well with the repos. Maybe if we award contracts to their crones they would get on board. Corruption seems to work for them. Lets get in a Jersey state of mind on this one.

    February 7, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  18. Brian Collins

    My suggestion would be for the NY/NJ Port Authority to utilize Stewart Airport ,just 55 minutes north on the Hudson River , as a full fledged partner in a comprehensive air travel policy for NYC and the surrounding area, that would take pressure of LaGuardia and allow it to more comfortably service the flying public. We have invested tens of millions into Stewart, which by the way has one of the longest runways in the nation, and have not seen it used to it's full potential. If mandated that every fourth wide body international flight bound for NYC use Stewart and built the infrastructure there to quickly transport passengers to downtown NY an existing investment would start to pay returns and perhaps spur growth in the lower Hudson valley.

    February 7, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  19. Adam Leggett

    This has nothing to do with maintenance of the terminal. The entire airport was supposed to be closed in the early 60s with the opening of JFK. The Port Authority decided it needed the additional capacity provided by LGA. I don't think it makes sense for any airport building that existed in that era to still be in use today – needs are totally different. The terminal building is still maintained, it is just a poorly planned mess, is too small, and is showing its age in every way.

    February 7, 2014 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  20. sly

    VP Biden is right – our previous administration spent $5 TRILLION (trillion!) taxpayer dollars hunting Osama Bin Laden in .... Iraq? (Thank God our President Obama killed him in .... Pakistan).

    Spent my tax dollars HERE IN AMERICA! Fix OUR nation – stop padding the oil industries fat wallets.

    February 7, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  21. Malory Archer


    Does Joe realize how much Chinese Communist slave labor was used to build Hong Kong's International airport? Actually he probably does and I suspect he is suggesting that the taxpayers be further enslaved to make a grand airport come to life in LaGuardia.


    Yeah, except he's a Dem and the Dems are actually attempting to address the income gap, much to the chagrin of the screechers on the right.

    February 7, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  22. Stern Stan

    Wendel, really? Everything has to be a bash with you? YOU are whats wrong with America today, not just the airports!

    February 7, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  23. JW

    Joe Biden makes it sound like its something that hasn't been gravely considered at all, and in fact, improving LGA and its transit links has been extensively studied and debated for decades. There was a very well researched proposal to extend the N/Q to LGA, but the Queens district council that represents Astoria fought it tooth and nail until it became no longer viable, and after 9/11 it fell down the priority list considerably. Also, because LGA only has limited international flights and many New Yorkers are willing to use buses and cabs to reach LGA, MTA and Port Authority officials have said that ridership for such an extension would be only about 12,000/yr, which is really a drop in the bucket. What they COULD consider doing is creating a new branch of the AirTrain along the Grand Central Parkway from the Astoria Blvd. station to LGA. It would likely be less intrusive than building a new heavy subway line, it wouldn't require a driver, and it uses an existing right-of-way for transit, albeit one that would have to be elevated over the GCP somehow.

    February 7, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  24. Curran III

    Biden is spot on. I have traveled to China and Korea several times. Our main international hubs are a disgrace compared to the airports in Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul/Inchon particularly. SFO is the only major hub that is presentable IMO. LAX, JFK and Atlanta are embarrassing. The designs are outdated, the facilities are a mess and many of the workers (not all) are rude and lazy. This is the first thing travelers see when they enter the USA and first impressions matter. We can do much better!

    February 7, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  25. suzanne

    How old is the airport in Hong Kong? How old is Laguardia? just wondering if that has antyhing to do with it? Needs a remodel like all old structures make the airlines pay for it they use it?

    February 7, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
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