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LaGuardia revamp delayed 3 months for assessment

An overview of the Central Terminal at LaGuardia

An overview of the Central Terminal at LaGuardia Airport on Nov. 19, 2014. Credit: Uli Seit

A multibillion-dollar project to rebuild LaGuardia Airport's aging terminal has been delayed for at least three months so its operator can assess how it fits into a broader airport redesign, officials said Thursday.

The Port Authority, which operates the airport, won't select a builder and operator to redevelop its Central Terminal Building -- known to travelers as Terminal B -- until after a committee, appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, reviews submissions made as part of a design contest to overhaul area airports he called for in October.

"My expectation is that within the 90-day period the Port Authority will have a motion on the table to approve a particular bidder," John J. Degnan, the authority's chairman, said Thursday. "We cannot, in my judgment, allow this RFP [request for proposals] to go undecided for more than the 90-day period."

Degnan urged the committee to get its work done by the end of April, so the authority could go ahead and select one of three bidders.

The $3.6 billion project, which calls for public and private financing, is expected to be completed in 2021.

The redevelopment of the 51-year-old terminal, which Vice President Joe Biden last year derided as one that could be found in "some Third World country," should not be delayed by a redesign contest for the region's major airports, said Joseph J. Sitt, chairman of Global Gateway Alliance, a group that has lobbied for an overhaul of New York-area airports.

Sitt and others have expressed frustration that the selection of a builder and operator has dragged on for too long.

"While ensuring coordination between projects is important for the future of the airports, the CTB [central terminal building] process has now been going on for more than three years," Sitt said. "The CTB is the linchpin in finally improving LaGuardia's reputation and meeting the airport's growth needs, and it's past time for the project to move forward to choosing a developer and starting construction."

With Biden at his side in October, a month before his gubernatorial election, Cuomo announced the design competition at LaGuardia to overhaul New York-area airports, but the governor gave little details as to the projects' cost or how they would be funded.

Scott H. Rechler, the authority's vice chairman, said board members will have to consider the Central Terminal Building project in the context of the airport redesign to ensure that what is built meets the travelers' needs for decades to come. It's important, he said, to take a step back and allow the Cuomo-appointed committee to review the submissions.

At Thursday's monthly board meeting, the Port Authority approved a $45.5 million program to implement five flood-mitigation and storm-resiliency projects at LaGuardia to ensure the airport can withstand future storms and other extreme weather-related events.

LaGuardia was forced to close for two days after the airport was inundated with seawater when superstorm Sandy came barreling along the East Coast in 2012.

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