New York

‘Third World Country' No More: $4 Billion LaGuardia Project Gets Underway

Delta's $4 billion, 37-gate facility is a cornerstone of the ambitious overhaul plan Gov. Cuomo announced in 2015

What to Know

  • Cuomo first announced the ambitious overhaul plan in July 2015, a year after then VP Joe Biden said the hub was like a third world country
  • The entire airport is being rebuilt, and the new LaGuardia will offer state-of-the-art amenities and expanded transportation
  • The first new gates are scheduled to open next year and the new airport is on track to be fully completed by 2021

Construction is officially underway for a multibillion-dollar overhaul of LaGuardia Airport, which former Vice President Joe Biden once likened to "some Third World Country."

Delta is a partner in the project, and held a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday to commence construction on a $4 billion, 37-gate facility that will be a cornerstone of the two-phase renovation. The airline says it is investing $3.4 billion in the overhaul, marking the largest airport investment in its history.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the airport, is committing $600 million to cover the rest. The agency and Delta just signed a new, long-term lease. 

Gov. Cuomo, who was on hand at LaGuardia for Tuesday's groundbreaking, tweeted renderings of a sleek new terminal and taxiways, saying, "It's going to be a beautiful front door to New York." 

"LaGuardia is a pillar of New York’s transportation network, but for too long the airport has been unworthy of New York state," the governor tweeted.

The Delta facility is the final component of the new LaGuardia, which will provide travelers with state-of-the-art amenities and expanded public transportation, including a planned AirTrain. 

"This is a historic day for Delta as we break ground on our state-of-the-art facility at LaGuardia Airport," Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement. "This investment underscores our commitment to LaGuardia, to New York and to providing our customers and employees here and across the state with a world-class experience at one of our most important hubs."

Cuomo first unveiled the ambitious overhaul plan in July 2015, a year after then Vice President Biden likened it to "some Third World Country." The project called for rebuilding the entire footprint of the airport, which is shoehorned onto a small, oddly-shaped property of about 680 acres on the shore of the East River. The space is a fraction of what's used at other airports around the country handling similar passenger loads.

LaGuardia's existing, cramped and chaotic buildings are being replaced with a big new terminal 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway, the highway that rings the airport like a moat. That shift will relieve some of the space constraints for aircraft trying to taxi to and from the congested gate areas.

That phase of the overhaul got underway in June 2016. The first new gates are expected to open next year, and the new airport is on track to be fully completed by 2021.

Cuomo also announced on Tuesday a breakthrough with LaGuardia Gateway Partners (LGP), the firm that is building the western half of the airport. JLC Infrastructure, a joint venture comprising Magic Johnson Enterprises and Loop Capital Markets LLC, will become an MWBE investor with LGP, marking the first time in the state's history that there will be an MWBE firm investing equity in a public-private construction project.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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