Skip to main content

Bring LaGuardia out of the Third World

By Joseph Sitt and Stephen Sigmund
updated 7:36 AM EST, Mon February 10, 2014
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 From the dilapidated state of LaGuardia's Central Terminal Building to the minimal public transport links and outdated air traffic control system, the metro area's airports are in desperate need of modernization.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 Despite its outdated condition, LaGuardia serves 25 million passengers a year.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
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT