Astoria, Transportation
Jun 15, 2016

Update on LaGuardia Airport – Groundbreaking Yesterday, Artist Renderings, and a Huge Price Tag

An update on the progress and status of the planned revamp of LaGuardia Airport, including construction, transit, and facilities.

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Photo credit: Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office

We’ve heard for a while now that LaGuardia Airport will get a makeover, and this summer brings the first step toward that massive revamp and construction project.

Yesterday afternoon there was a groundbreaking ceremony at the airport to kick off the $4 billion plan to overhaul LaGuardia Airport. Both Governor Cuomo, who’s bullish on the revamp, and VP Joe Biden were there. Biden, of course, is known for his infamous quote, “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,’ I’m not joking.” At the groundbreaking, he had good things to say about the plans to upgrade the place, as did Cuomo. USA Today reported the Governor as saying, “We’re not just building an airport, we’re building an airport that’s part of a new vision that revitalizes New York.”

We know that many of you reading this are in complete agreement on that “third world” comment. For a long time, LGA has had a terrible reputation for its outdated terminal, blah food offerings, not to mention over the years the airport holding records for the most delays in the county.

The first thing they’re going to do is tear down the 2,700 space 5-story parking garage in front of the terminal, which will lead to the eventual shift of the new 1.3 million-square-foot terminal 600 feet closer to the GCP (were the parking garage stands today will be a new check-in and security area). The hope is that there will then be more room for the planes to “spread their wings”—room for them to taxi to and from their gates and perhaps that means there will be less delays, as a result.

To make all this happen, a huge, record-setting financial deal was made, announced at the start of June, which is what allows the project to go forward, since money is the engine behind this whole thing. We first heard about it from Crain’s:

“A consortium of private partners closed on a deal Wednesday [June 1, 2016] to develop a $4 billion replacement to the maligned LaGuardia Airport’s Central Terminal Building and operate the new facility through 2050. The agreement marks the completion of the biggest public-private partnership in the history of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates the region’s major airports. The Port Authority entered into the deal with the consortium, LaGuardia Gateway Partners.”

LaGuardia Gateway Partners, made up of Vantage Airport Group, Skanska (which designed and built the AirTrain for JFK), and Meridiam, among others, will operate the airport until 2050. The new Central Terminal is expected to be finished by 2021, but may open by 2020, with a second set of gates opening in 2021; a new Terminal B will open in 2018. All terminals (except, perhaps, the historic Marine Air Terminal, AKA Terminal A, whose fate I have been unable to clarify) will be connected into a single hub with 35 gates. It will be 64 percent larger, and include more restaurants, lounges, stores—and overall there will be more space at this airport. As a reminder a ferry is in the plans as well as AirTrain (possibly). And this summer the Q70 bus will relaunch as the “LaGuardia Link” and as an SBS bus route.

As far as how the private-public funding split goes, LaGuardia Gateway Partners is putting up two thirds of the financing, and Port Authority, along with passenger fees, is taking care of the rest. NY YIMBY shares actual numbers: “The development team, which is putting up $1.8 billion of its own money, has already secured $2.5 billion in financing. The Port Authority is responsible for an additional $2.2 billion that will go towards infrastructure work.”

And if it goes over budget? Some believe the final cost could balloon from $4 billion to as high as $5.3 billion. Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye says, “If it goes over budget, that is on the private team doing this and not on the Port Authority.” The private team is also required to meet specific “construction milestones” and if they don’t there will be financial pain, forced to pay up to $300 million, as well as costs for any repair for faulty work.

Eighty percent of the revenue generated by the new terminal will come from the airlines and another 20 percent will come from revenue generated by concessions. LaGuardia Gateway Partners, as the consortium is known, will negotiate leases with the airlines.

And back to those passenger fees—they will increase by quite a bit. Currently cost per passenger is $4; at the new terminal that fee will shoot up to about $30 in 2020 with a slight dip to $27.50 in 2025.

Now, with the parking garage being demolished so soon (July), how will people park? Well, earlier this year, it was suggested that Willets Point might become the new parking area. The proposed AirTrain would pass through there, so there is a logic behind this.

willets-point-lga

More recent news on parking at LGA also comes from Curbed, which indicates there will be 3,000 new parking spaces at the new airport.

In a recent Bloomberg article, “Making LaGuardia Great Again,” one of the reporters asked CEO George Casey from Vantage Airport Group a really practical and relevant question—will this make going through security any easier? He responded with this, with sounds a little boilerplate, though the “our design incorporates a more intuitive flow of passengers” part is somewhat heartening:

“In developing our concept we look to simplify the flow of passengers and also what happens in and around security, understanding the TSA controls security at LGA but also across the nation. We as LaGuardia Gateway partners and Vantage, in our experience in 28 airports around the world, have worked closely with those type of agencies and ensuring we do whatever we can as a key stakeholder in helping facilitate the processing through security of passengers. So we at LGA Gateway Partners, and we as Vantage with our experience would look to work w/the TSA to make that experience as efficient as possible for the passengers. So our design incorporates more intuitive flow of passengers, centralized screening, which we hope, for the TSA, delivers a better outcome.”

Here are some artist renderings of the new LaGuardia Airport:

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Photo credit: New York State Press Office

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Photo credit: New York State Press Office

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Photo credit: Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office

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Photo credit: New York State Press Office

What do you think? Is all this going to be worth it? Does the parking situation sound like a raw deal? How about those increased passenger fees? And what kind of restaurants and retail would you like to see at the new LaGuardia Airport? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think.

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

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