LaGuardia, ‘worst’ airport in America, goals to be its finest

(CNN) – Traveling the life of New Yorkers has long been a curse, and the new President Joe Biden once described it as the “Third World”.

While the aviation industry was decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, LaGuardia Airport underwent a tacit major renovation.

And now, $ 8 billion later, the new Terminal B is almost complete.

“New Yorkers love to criticize and they love to hate. I think if you look at every single passenger survey, LaGuardia has always been the worst,” said Rick Cotton, chief executive officer for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority.

“Our challenge was to go from worst to first,” he told CNN.

Today, LaGuardia is a completely different place, with art installations like one of the largest mosaic walls in the U.S. and even a stunning water feature that projects images of New York icons like the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge onto a cascading fountain.

Air Canada, American Airlines, Southwest and United passengers, all of whom are accommodated at the new terminal, have been enjoying the new public areas since the summer.

A plane takes off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on December 3, 2020.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images North America

From worst to … best?

It was Joe Biden’s comments in 2015 that sparked the renovations.

New York authorities lit the work green after the then Vice President said, “If I had blindfolded you and taken you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you would think I had to be in a third world country.”

The central Terminal B was built in 1964 and has hardly changed since then.

And LaGuardia was one of the most outdated, noisy, and inaccessible airports in the country, according to travelers. Not to mention the punctuality which was among the worst in the US.

The redevelopment is the largest public-private partnership in US aviation history and is only 80% complete. There are still a few final gates that need to be demolished and reopened. The project will be fully completed in 2022 and three of the four terminals will be fully refurbished.

For now, travelers in Terminal B can enjoy the new, airy, light-flooded departure hall, the entire rear wall of which is covered with Laura Owens’ colossal 25,000 square meter mosaic mural “I NY”, in which NYC icons such as the Apollo are used as a symbol for the Stonewall Inn Coney Island Theater and the Cyclone roller coaster depicted against a backdrop of blue skies and fluffy white clouds. It is accompanied by a monumental sculpture on the subject of aviation by Sarah Sze, “Shorter than the Day”, which hangs in the air.

In the connector area is Sabine Hornig’s “La Guardia Vistas”, a modern stained glass installation (made of latex ink and vinyl on glass), which in honor of the founder of the airport and former mayor of NYC, creates over 1,100 photos of New York City put together. Fiorello La Guardia.

Jeppe Hein’s 70 steel balloons dangle from the ceiling throughout the terminal, and his bench sculptures provide photo-friendly seating.

Free Covid Tests for Everyone

2020 is not the best year to restart an airport.

When New York was the US center of the epidemic in March, passenger numbers at the city’s three airports fell by a staggering 98%. According to Cotton, the numbers are still down 75-80%.

But in addition to the art, the airport also offers free Covid tests to lure passengers back.

Cotton believes the 840,000 square foot, four story offering is now “best in class”.

The port authority hopes more travelers can experience them in 2021.

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