New Yorkers may be proud of their city, but one thing that doesn’t instill much pride is the Big Apple’s airports, which are over-crowded, outdated and difficult to negotiate, even for those accustomed to them. The city’s worst example, LaGuardia Airport, is about to receive a much-needed facelift. Last week, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced plans to move forward with a delayed project to replace the aging central terminal building at LaGuardia Airport. The project had been on hold because of concerns originating from the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that planners were not taking a “big picture” approach to the airport.
The approximately $4 billion project, which has already generated a series of bids, had been delayed while Cuomo appointed a special panel of advisers to study the airport as a whole, not just the central terminal, and to look at the agency’s other major airports, according to Capital New York. The panel appointed by the governor has demanded that one of Cuomo’s recommendations be mandatory: a $400 million grand entry hall for the new terminal project. LaGuardia airport is the New York area’s third largest airport and moves approximately 27 million passengers per year.
During a press conference, Cuomo, together with Vice President Joe Biden, said the busy airport will be transformed into a single, structurally unified main terminal with expanded transportation access, significantly increased taxiway space and passenger amenities. Construction on the first half of the new unified terminal, expected to be a $4 billion project financed half by public funds and half by private funds, is expected to create 8,000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs, according to the project’s supporters. The project will be managed by LaGuardia Gateway Partners, a new public private partnership chosen by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to build the project.
Cuomo’s office said the project should look to retain what was unique about the main terminal building at LaGuardia.
“The Port Authority’s initial plan was to replace what was existing at LaGuardia,” Cuomo said in a statement. “That was short sighted; no one should want to replace a 1950s-style airport. My directive was not to rebuild what was but imagine and build what should be. This airport is the welcoming point to the greatest state in the country and New York deserves the best.”
Final approval is expected in the first part of 2016; the majority of this first half of the project is expected to open to passengers in 2019 with the entire site completed by 2021. The winning bidders for the project include Swedish-owned construction and development company Skanska USA and architecture and engineering firm HOK. The new terminal will be about 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Terminal, which will provide more space for flight operations and runways as well as more taxi space for the airport’s notoriously difficult pickup and drop-off areas. Future plans to expand include plans for connections from the airport to the New York Subway system and a high-speed ferry service that will dock at the Marine Air Terminal.
Not everyone is enamored of the new plans, however. Critics say that the overhaul will not increase the gate count at LaGuardia from its current 72. Also, no additions or changes are planned for LaGuardia’s runways, which are surrounded by water on three sides and contained to just 680 acres, according to Travel Weekly. This will do nothing to improve the airport’s notorious flight delay, critics say.