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‘From Worst to Best:’ La Guardia Airport gets a $4 billion makeover

For decades, La Guardia airport was one of the worst in the country – dilapidated ceilings, cramped corridors, frequent rodents and broken escalators were the norm Scary travel.

The airport is so dilapidated that Joe Biden, when he was vice president in 2014, famously likened going through it to a trip to the “third world”. Travelers are even less charitable, calling it “disgusting” and “awful” in social media posts, a shameful entrance into a global capital.

But on Thursday, views and assessments diverged as state and local officials celebrated the airport’s revitalization with the completion of a brand new main terminal with nothing in common but name and location. located with the old La Guardia along the banks of the Queens River.

The transition is so remarkable that the terminal declare Best new airport building in the world by an international panel of judges.

“We really went from worst to best and I love it,” Governor Kathy Hochul said at a news conference in the final section of the station to be opened to the public, an overhead bridge. sunlit connects to 35 spacious new gates and offers a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline.

Despite the hype, La Guardia’s $8 billion overhaul is far from complete. Rick Cotton, chief executive officer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates three major airports serving the city, said construction on the second terminal is expected to finish by the end of spring.

But Mr Cotton expressed relief at reaching another major milestone in his years-long campaign to revitalize the region’s airports. “I really don’t believe that anyone has the ambition to make La Guardia a world-class airport,” he said.

City Council speaker Adrienne Adams, who said she worked as a flight attendant for five years after college, called the new terminal “a shining example of New’s full recovery potential. York” after the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has really sped up airport construction as it has reduced air travel for most of the past two years, allowing massive work to be done without disrupting too many visitors. In 2020, the number of passengers using La Guardia fell by nearly 23 million, or 73%, before recovering gradually over most of last year.

However, some obstacles remain. Mr. Cotton once supported a separate project to build an AirTrain to provide the public transport connectivity that La Guardia had always lacked.

The Port Authority is pressing for a plan to build one, at a cost of more than $2 billion, to connect to the subway system and a commuter train line.

However, Ms Hochul – in response to criticism of the AirTrain’s proposal, including an off-road route that would discourage passengers – ordered the Port Authority to reconsider. A review of alternatives, including an extension of a metro line, is underway with no schedule to decide, meaning faster travel options to the airport. still many years to go.

And the airport’s compact size, inability to change, and its location have all contributed to uncomfortably long flight delays.

Although Ms. Hochul made a splash on Thursday, the overhaul of La Guardia was carried out by her predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo, who resigned last year over alleged harassment. sex.

Mr. Cuomo urged the Port Authority to scrap a less ambitious plan to renovate the airport and create a worthy gateway to the nation’s largest city.

Mr. Biden’s name kept popping up on Thursdays. New York City’s new mayor, Eric Adams, recalled how Mr. Biden viewed La Guardia as a “stain” on the city’s image, then added, “President Biden, look at us now. “

But Mr. Cuomo was not mentioned and not invited.

The ribbon-cutting that followed the speeches – the fourth since new sections of the airport began opening – were the first to include the city’s mayor. Mr. Cuomo didn’t get along well enough with the mayor who ended up sharing the stage with him.

Kevin O’Toole, president of the Port Authority, said in his four-and-a-half years in the role, it was “the first time I’ve seen a mayor of New York City and a governor of New York in the same room. . . . ”

The Port Authority, jointly controlled by the governors of New York and New Jersey, also operates Kennedy International Airport in Queens and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Both airports are the focus of the agency’s largest-ever reconstruction campaign.

At Newark Liberty, a whopping $2.7 billion end under construction to replace Terminal A. At Kennedy, Ms. Hochul endorsed the agency’s overhaul plan that includes building a $9.5 billion international terminal.

But La Guardia got to the finish line much closer. On Thursday, travelers with long-lost memories of the airport were amazed at the change.

“It’s like night and day,” says Annie Coakley, 46, of Chicago.

“When I got off the plane, I was on the phone with my brother and I said ‘Oh my God! They made a big change here! ‘” she said. “The whole place is very bright and looks very architectural, sharp and clean.”

Visitors have been racing through the lounges trying to avoid contact with any surfaces. Now, they’re psychedelic, watching the images projected into the fountain and snapping selfies in front of the artwork that blankets the walls.

Chip Dehart, 53, of Phoenix, who was visiting with his wife, Saleta, 51, said: “When you get off the plane, it’s so open and wide.

“When we first started coming here, it was really shabby, the bathroom was terrible, and we hated it,” Ms. Dehart said. “I just admired the tile in the bathroom and it’s beautiful. The seven colors of the rainbow are so beautiful. ”

The enthusiasm was so contagious at the airport that Donovan Richards Jr., the president of the Queens district, engaged in some sort of magical thinking: “I don’t think La Guardia is going to be the joke of any joke. more,” he said.

Precious Fondren contribution report.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/27/nyregion/la-guardia-airport-terminal-completion.html ‘From Worst to Best:’ La Guardia Airport gets a $4 billion makeover

Fry Electronics Team

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