Biden touts plans to fix 'Third World' NYC airport

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden, who infamously dubbed New York City's outdated LaGuardia Airport "a third-world country," joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a news conference Monday to tout plans to improve the region's airports.

Biden, the White House's loudest voice on the need to update the nation's crumbling infrastructure, was gently teased by Cuomo, who announced a design competition to modernize John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports as well as two lesser-known suburban airports.

Cuomo offered a mock quiz about who said, "If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you must think, 'I must be in some third-world country,'" asking if it was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, comedian Jay Leno, celebrity developer Donald Trump or "None of the above."

Biden smiled broadly when Cuomo revealed the answer was "D, None of the above" and noted, of course, that it was the vice president who made that unflattering comparison in February.

"And he was right," Cuomo said.

Cuomo, a Democrat seeking re-election next month, said the design competition would be held to update the city's two airports — which often are voted among the worst in the United States — and to expand Stewart Airport in the Hudson Valley and Republic Airport on Long Island, both of which could receive more flights, particularly cargo flights, to relieve pressure on Kennedy and LaGuardia.

The competition will begin in 30 days and last 60 days. Three finalists will receive $500,000.

Though some details, including the funding source for what would surely be expensive rehabilitations, were not revealed, Cuomo said that tax-free zones would be used to spur development. He said he wanted to push for new rail and ferry links to LaGuardia, improve access to Kennedy and thoroughly modernize amenities at both.

Biden enthusiastically endorsed the plan.

"This is basically a no-brainer, I really mean it," Biden said during the event at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, which is in the shadow of LaGuardia. "Investing in infrastructure is all about jobs."

"The United States of America ranks 28th in the world among advanced nations in transportation infrastructure," Biden continued. "It's ridiculous."

Biden said the state's plan complements the White House's "bold" undertaking to revitalize the nation's infrastructure, and he enthusiastically praised Cuomo's leadership. While reminiscing about President Abraham Lincoln's efforts to build an intercontinental railroad, he suddenly turned to Cuomo and said, "He's like you, pal. He had vision."

Biden repeatedly thundered, "There's nothing this country can't do" when it dreams big. He also praised "Vision Zero," Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to reduce traffic fatalities, though Biden initially called it "Zero Vision" before correcting himself.


Contact Jonathan Lemire on Twitter @JonLemire