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 From the dilapidated state of LaGuardia's Central Terminal Building to the minimal public transport links and outdated air traffic control system, the metro area's airports are in desperate need of modernization.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 Despite its outdated condition, LaGuardia serves 25 million passengers a year.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
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT