Skip to main content

Bring LaGuardia out of the Third World

By Joseph Sitt and Stephen Sigmund
February 10, 2014 -- Updated 1236 GMT (2036 HKT)
Architect Richard Rogers brought beautiful changing colors to Madrid-Barajas Airport in Spain. The main terminal's departures area is shown here. Architect Richard Rogers brought beautiful changing colors to Madrid-Barajas Airport in Spain. The main terminal's departures area is shown here.
HIDE CAPTION
Madrid-Barajas Airport
Madrid-Barajas Airport
Beijing Capital International
Beijing Capital International
Kansai International
Kansai International
King Abdulaziz International
King Abdulaziz International
Raleigh-Durham International
Raleigh-Durham International
Aeropuerto de Carrasco
Aeropuerto de Carrasco
TWA terminal at JFK International
TWA terminal at JFK International
Matteo Pericoli mural at JFK
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Vice President Biden compared LaGuardia Airport to being in a Third World country
  • Authors: U.S. has let its airports fall far behind the curve internationally
  • They say politicians need to make improving LaGuardia and others a priority
  • Authors: LaGuardia needs new terminals, better transportation and more amenities

Editor's note: Joseph Sitt is founder and chairman of the Global Gateway Alliance, a coalition of business, labor and advocacy groups seeking to modernize New York area airports. Stephen Sigmund is the executive director of the Global Gateway Alliance.

(CNN) -- Vice President Joe Biden was right to call attention to New York's LaGuardia Airport. From the dilapidated state of LaGuardia's Central Terminal Building to the minimal public transport links and outdated air traffic control system, the metro area's airports are in desperate need of modernization.

But now it's time for Biden and other leaders to put their money where their rhetoric is. The Federal Government and local politicians must step up and take sustained action.

And the goal should be to fix the problem, not point fingers. Despite its outdated condition, LaGuardia serves 25 million passengers a year. As the closest airport to Manhattan, it is coveted by airlines.

Moreover, New York City's three major airports serve more than 110 million people a year, account for 500,000 jobs and contribute $63 billion to our regional economy, according to a November 2013 study from Global Gateway Alliance and Partnership for New York City. And they are the largest global gateway to the world for international travelers, with U.S. Customs data showing that John F. Kennedy International Airport handles the most international visitors and Newark International Airport the fifth most. As such, the airports serve as a symbol for the entire United States.

Most agree LaGuardia needs upgrade
Biden slams New York airport
William B. Hartsfield, who served six terms as mayor of Atlanta from 1937 to 1962, was instrumental in developing the city's airport: first by helping to select the landing field and, later, leading the way for a new terminal. The Atlanta airport is now the busiest airport in the world. William B. Hartsfield, who served six terms as mayor of Atlanta from 1937 to 1962, was instrumental in developing the city's airport: first by helping to select the landing field and, later, leading the way for a new terminal. The Atlanta airport is now the busiest airport in the world.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
>
>>
Whom are those airports named after? Whom are those airports named after?

Airports are responsible for the first and last impressions visitors have, and in New York, some 54 million tourists visited last year. They are fundamentally vital to our economy, tourism industry and our global reputation.

As the vice president pointed out, New York's airports are a symbol of underinvestment in infrastructure throughout the country. When the Beatles landed in New York 50 years ago last week, our airports were a symbol of the modern, efficient and forward-looking transportation infrastructure in the United States. Now, they are the embodiment of our falling behind the rest of the world.

Cities all over the world have recognized the significance of their airports and have invested in state-of-the-art technology and infrastructure. Our own Global Gateway Alliance survey showed that airports from Singapore to Paris are providing innovative amenities such as 40 foot slides, ice skating rinks and on airport baby strollers to ensure that passengers have the best possible experience.

The same survey showed LaGuardia and New York area airports at the bottom of the list of passenger amenities.

The bottom line is we to have to invest in our airports to avoid losing out to national and international competitors and to provide a better quality of life for those millions of passengers.

At LaGuardia, here's how:

-- 21st century terminals: LaGuardia's Central Terminal Building, built in 1964, is a prime example of an outdated terminal desperately in need of redevelopment, which is why it's so important for the Port Authority to deliver on the promise of a modern, efficient and innovative terminal. There are also significant space constraints with only two short runways and limited parking, which are challenges that need to be addressed.

-- Better passenger amenities: Frequently voted the worst airport in the U.S. by passengers, LaGuardia is definitely not known for its amenities. All of the New York area airports would benefit from providing what are now basic services, such as free Wi-Fi, which would help business travelers, and leave visitors with a better impression of their time in New York.

-- Improved transportation links: Public transportation access to all of New York's airports is behind other world class cities, which have one seat train rides directly from the city center to the airport. Options for getting to LaGuardia via public transportation are very limited, but a Bus Rapid Transit system, with dedicated lanes and just a few stops to the airport, would help remedy that. This service would remove the threat of traffic delays normally associated with buses and provide a convenient and reliable direct ride to the airport. Reviving long dormant plans for a direct subway extension to LaGuardia are also worth exploring.

-- Bring NextGen to New York first: LaGuardia, along with JFK and Newark, is the most delayed airport traffic control system in the country. Every day, our airspace contributes to one half to three quarters of all delays around the country. The solution is NextGen, the new satellite-based air traffic control system. Replacing the old 1960s radar technology means fewer delays on the ground and in the air. But the FAA has to step up and make it happen in New York. Right now, the federal government is years behind in developing NextGen, and the FAA wants to roll it out in smaller markets first, despite the tremendous impact the New York airspace has on national delays.

It's past time to stop ignoring our airports and to move them to the front of the priorities line. That's how LaGuardia will go from Third World to world class.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the authors.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT