'Third world' New York's LaGuardia Airport to be rebuilt

Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing a major reconstruction project of New York's LaGuardia Airport on July 27, 2015.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing a major reconstruction project of New York's LaGuardia Airport on July 27, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
US Vice-President Joe Biden unveiling plans for the new area infrastructure project.
US Vice-President Joe Biden unveiling plans for the new area infrastructure project.PHOTO: AFP
New York's LaGuardia Airport.
New York's LaGuardia Airport.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - New York's LaGuardia Airport, famously likened to a "third world country" by Vice-President Joe Biden, is to be rebuilt from the ground up, officials announced Monday.

"We want a globally renowned airport for the next century that is worthy of the name New York," Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in a Manhattan hotel ballroom alongside Biden.

The Guide to Sleeping in Airports rated LaGuardia as the 10th worst airport in the world in 2014, singling out security lines, drab decor, lackluster cleanliness and unhelpful staff.

Construction will be financed by a US$4 billion (S$5.5 billion) private-public partnership and will create around 8,000 new jobs, officials said.

The initial phase of construction is slated to begin in the first half of 2016. Mr Cuomo said lengthy approval processes had been expedited by the vice president's office.

The new airport will move 183m closer to the Grand Central Parkway, creating more space for flight operations and will eventually be linked up to the rail network.

Mr Cuomo called the current airport "un-New York". "It's slow, dated and a terrible entranceway to New York," he said.

Mr Biden added: "This is the greatest city in the world... It requires a 21st century infrastructure." LaGuardia first opened in 1939 and was originally constructed by the city of New York at a cost of US$40 million. Last year, nearly 27 million passengers passed through the airport.

That number is expected to grow to 34 million passengers by 2030, Mr Biden said.

Mr Cuomo said his administration would also design a master plan for New York's busiest hub, John F. Kennedy International Airport, that would be done in the next 12 months.

JFK last year processed 53 million passengers. New York, home to 8.4 million people, is America's biggest city, the country's financial and entertainment capitals.

In 2013, the city received 54.3 million international and domestic visitors.