A planned $4 billion transformation will lift LaGuardia Airport into the 21st century, leaving behind the delay-plagued, aesthetically outdated facility that has been ranked among the worst in the world, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday.
Under the proposal, the Queens airport -- compared last year by Vice President Joe Biden to a "Third World country" -- will feature a unified terminal by rebuilding one of the three existing terminals and linking it to the others, Cuomo told the pro-business Association for a Better New York.
"New York will have the newest major airport in the United States," he said, alongside Biden at Manhattan's Sheraton New York hotel. "This is what New York deserves and has deserved for a long time."
He joked that Biden's criticisms of LaGuardia in February 2014 were "prophetic."
The terminal footprint would be moved 600 feet closer to Grand Central Parkway to create a 240 percent increase in land for aircraft taxiing, reducing gate delays that LaGuardia is infamous for, Cuomo said.
The $4 billion, half of which will be provided by private contractors, would go toward building a new Terminal B and creating a portal -- an arrivals-and-departures hall with dining and other amenities -- that also would link to Terminals C and D, which are leased by Delta Air Lines, Port Authority executive director Pat Foye told reporters.
Ground is to be broken next year, with the new Terminal B accessible to the public in 2019, he said. Eventually, high-speed ferry service from the Marine Air Terminal and a rail link to Willets Point -- where the No. 7 and Long Island Rail Road trains connect -- will be available, Cuomo said Monday.
The Marine Air Terminal, a historic landmark, won't be part of the unified terminal. Delta will continue to operate its shuttle from that facility.
The Port Authority took a major step toward revamping the airport in May when it chose LaGuardia Gateway Partners, a consortium that includes construction and banking firms, to replace the aging Central Terminal Building -- known to travelers as Terminal B.
The $3.6 billion project called for the demolition of the 51-year-old building and construction of a new and larger one to accommodate more than twice as many passengers. The authority's board also said at the time it would consider spending up to $400 million more to build a connection at the airport between the new Terminal B and Terminal C.
Delta will be a "full partner" in the new airport, redeveloping its facilities in parallel with the Port Authority and eventually connecting to the new portal, Cuomo and Foye said.
Delta president Ed Bastian in a statement said the overhaul "will transform not only the New York City travel experience but also the landscape of the city itself."
Flight operations will be minimally affected, Foye said.
"There are going to be times where flight operations are going to have to be scaled back," he said, "but the goal is to maintain LaGuardia's operations at their current level."
Biden lauded the jobs the project will bring, from construction and airport positions to commerce and tourism that he said would ultimately result.
"LaGuardia and JFK are economic anchors in this city, and they deserve to be the best in the world," he said, "because New York will only become bigger and more influential in the world . . . New York leads America, that's been the story."