Dan Janison Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison,

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.

The biggest challenge facing an ambitious new multibillion-dollar plan for transforming LaGuardia Airport seems to be the narrow physical and procedural restrictions it must meet.

Hemmed in by the Grand Central Parkway, Astoria streets and waters north of Queens, LaGuardia's footprint totals 680 acres. Vice President Joe Biden, in New York City for the announcement last week, noted: "Denver International Airport, by comparison, has 33,000 acres to work with."

Another fixed fact on the ground, as the Port Authority replaces the airport's main terminal, is the role of Delta Air Lines -- which has two terminals of its own that it agreed to redevelop to fit the plan. "This doesn't happen without Delta Air Lines," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

The airport's runway configurations, which would require time-consuming federal approvals to change, will remain the same while the airport's footprint moves 600 feet closer to the parkway to add space, officials said.

LaGuardia's Art Deco Marine Air Terminal will be preserved since it has landmark status.

With tricky design conditions met, the federally supported project promises to boost regional jobs. Cuomo's confident announcement before the Association for a Better New York had a national flavor given Biden's presence. There, Cuomo soaked up tributes in advance of the construction that is due to begin in the early part of next year.

Biden took a jab in his speech at Cuomo's Port Authority partner, GOP presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for ditching plans to rebuild old Hudson River rail tunnels.

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Of Cuomo, however, Biden said: "I travel around the country all the time. I'd like to take the governor with me -- take him everywhere -- to encourage and embolden other governors to step up" on infrastructure.

Ex-President Bill Clinton appeared in a video, saying, "Doing it right takes vision, initiative and investment. That's exactly what Governor Cuomo is showing with this remarkable plan for LaGuardia."

Bureaucratically, the Port Authority remains LaGuardia's operator, and the city its landlord.

Democrat Cuomo has been cordial with Christie. Meanwhile, Cuomo seems to have planted engaged and aggressive New York appointees to the PA board -- including his former top aide, lawyer Steven M. Cohen; Uniondale-based developer Scott Rechler and onetime New York City Deputy Mayor Kenneth Lipper.