Construction has finally begun at LaGuardia Airport for a major redesign of the Queens facility looking to help bring New York back to the top and push other states across the country to do more with their infrastructures.
Governor Andrew Cuomo was joined by Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday afternoon to announce the groundbreaking of the $4 billion renovation – a cost of which two-thirds will be financed through private funds and existing passengers fees.
Earlier this month, the governor announced that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – which oversees the facility – had reached a 35-year lease agreement and financial close with LaGuardia Gateway Partners, which will be managing the design, construction and financing of the redesign.
“The airport is really the front door to New York when you think about it,” Cuomo said. “This is not going to be just a rebuilding of what it was, it’s going to be a whole new airport.”
Once demolition is complete, the first steps of construction will begin for the brand new Terminal B that will lie closer to the highway — increasing airport taxiways by more than 2 miles and reducing airport ground delays.
The terminal will have a central hall and concourse connecting it to Terminal C and, for the first time, creating a unified airport as well as serve as the location for an AirTrain station.
Tuesday’s groundbreaking also marked the start of the construction of the new roadway network, and a new 3,000-space parking garage. Some of the new facilities are expected to start opening in 2018, with all of Terminal B slate to open to the public by the end of 2021.
“For many years New York sort of lost its mojo. What made New York New York is its ambition, is its creativity, is its capacity. New Yorkers never said no, there’s nothing we can never do,” Cuomo said. “This is saying yes we can, yes we will.”
Cuomo added that the redesign of the airport is more than just giving the facility – which back in 2014 was compared to a third world country by Biden – a face lift, but will also connect with other developments in infrastructure across the city.
Some of the developments include having an AirTrain not only connecting passengers within the airport but between Manhattan and the airport; providing ferry access; connecting two new LIRR tracks; and also expanding the Jacob Javits Center.
“If you are not investing and you are not building, you are standing still and everybody is going to pass you,” Cuomo said. “ What New Yorkers are saying…nobody is passing us by.”
During the groundbreaking, Biden poked fun at his 2014 comment but made sure to let New Yorkers know that he did not mean it as an insult but rather believed that the “the greatest city in the world needs the greatest infrastructure in the world.”
“This isn’t rocket science,” he said.
He added that the comment was prompted following a conversation he had with his son, who told him that when he had gone to LaGuardia he had seen an out of service escalator with a sign that said it would be repaired in two months.
The vice-president added that New York should serve as motivation for other states in the country to help the United States stand out from countries across the world and put an emphasis on infrastructure across the country.
“We are the epicenter of energy for the 21st Century,” Biden said. “We’ve gone from recession to recovery and we are on the verge of resurgence, if we have the guts to grab it.”