BY JON CRONIN
Vice President Joe Biden and Gov. Andrew Cuomo were on hand to kick off the groundbreaking of the new LaGuardia Airport.
Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said, “Today is a day about vision, accomplishment and about promises kept but it is also a day about creation of jobs and economic development.”
Taking the stage, Cuomo stated, “This airport is really the front door to New York. This is 20 billion dollars in commerce. Most people coming to New York come right through this airport and this airport has been long overdue for a new airport.”
Cuomo announced, “This is not going to be a building of what was, this is going to be a whole new airport, one unified state of the art airport for the first time.”
He boasted of an AirTrain that will connect the whole airport and fliers to the LIRR that will take people right to Manhattan and a ferry with access to the new airport. Cuomo said the airport will move 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway, which will increase flight operation 240 percent.
During the construction phase of this $7 billion project, he said, 18,000 direct and indirect jobs will be created.
“We’re not just building an airport,” he said, “We’re building an airport which is a piece of an entirely new vision that revitalizes New York.”
He pointed out that Penn Station will be given a state of the art upgrade and two new tracks for the LIRR as well as the East-Side Access bringing the LIRR to Grand Central Station, and Manhattan will see a $1 billion expansion to the Javitz Center.
“LaGuardia itself is exciting, but LaGuardia itself is part of a $100 billion investment in infrastructure, the largest investment in New York State’s infrastructure in modern history and that’s long overdue.”
He added that part of that is a $27 billion dollar investment in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “That is going to be the state’s future. We’re going to be moving more and more people through mass transit and I’m proud to be the Governor that made the largest investment in MTA’s history,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo then politely ribbed the Vice President when referring his January 2014 statement that “If you were landing in LaGuardia blind folded, then took off the blindfold, you would think you were in a third world country.”
“He was right,” Cuomo added. “I’ve kidded the Vice President about it a few times.”
He noted that was the popular interpretation of Biden’s comment, but his actual statement was, “If you were blinded folded and landing in Hong Kong, you would think you were in a modern state of the art airport in the United States. If you landed in LaGuardia blindfolded, you would think you were in a third world country.” His comment, Cuomo said, was meant to illustrate how far behind the U.S. was in investing in its infrastructure.
Biden said after World War II until the 1970s, our country invested four percent of the GDP into infrastructure, whereas “today we invest less than one percent.” Biden noted that our country is ranked 26th in the world in transportation infrastructure, then asked, “How can that stand?”
After apologizing for his lateness, due to a meeting with the national security advisors about the incident in Orlando, and congratulating Commissioner Bill Bratton on his response to security enhancements during cautious times, he came to back to his commitment toward transportation, “I’m called Mr. Infrastructure and sound like a broken record about what we are not doing.”
He discouraged any naysayers of the project. “We can’t do it?” he asked unbelievably, pointed out that in the 1980s, many thought Japan would own everything in our country, and at the turn of the 21st Century others thought China would dominate the new millennium. He noted that our economy is recovering faster than any other nation in the world, “We can’t do it? My God.”
LaGuardia was built in 1931 and now accommodates 14 million people a year and when it is rebuilt will accommodate 17.5 million. Biden believes that the city and state has passed the airport by in the digital age and as doorway to this country, the airport should reflect change.
“We are still the most progressive, most powerful, most ingenius country in the world and that’s just a fact. That’s not bragging, that’s just a simple straightforward fact.”
“This is going to make a big difference,” he concluded while thanking Gov. Cuomo.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin