LaGuardia no longer like '3rd world country' years after Biden comment

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Seven years ago next month, then-Vice President Joe Biden famously described the conditions at LaGuardia Airport as the kind found in a "third-world country."

It helped rally the troops and the political motivation to improve the airport. Now, billions of dollars and years later, completion is in sight.

LaGuardia Airport has come a long way. From its freshly polished Terrazzo floors to the gleaming windows in the nearly completely terminal, it looks like the gateway to a world-class city.

But that wasn't always the case.

"If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you must think I must be in some third world country," Biden said on Feb. 4, 2014.

Biden made the offhanded crack about the airport everyone loved to hate.

"The fact is LaGuardia was an embarrassment," said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton.

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Cotton took charge of the multibillion-dollar project to replace the airport, transforming a chronically congested and leaky relic.

There was no federal funding - just a good dose of shame.

"Biden's remark was a huge motivating factor and in fact the governor has said he was galvanized by it and that's really the start of the whole new LaGuardia," Cotton said.

There's not much congestion these days at the notorious airport, but the Port Authority says once the planes return the delays shouldn't -- thanks to a key design feature unprecedented in American airports.

But the type of innovative design that built a terminal above taxiways to free up space for plans to move is desperately needed at JFK Airport too.

The problem is COVID has bled the Port Authority dry. With traffic nonexistent for months, they are $3 billion in the hole, with no cash for new projects.

Under the former president, there wasn't much desire to help anything in New York, but now the Port Authority is banking on the new administration to help weather the storm.

"We're looking forward to the day he can come and see what his comment produced," Cotton said.

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