But New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio isn’t taking Biden’s comments lightly.
At an event in Philadelphia on Thursday, Biden compares the LaGuardia to a “third world country.”
“If I blindfolded someone and took them at 2 o’clock in the morning into the airport in Hong Kong and said ‘where do you think you are?’ They would say, ‘this must be America. This is a modern airport,'” Biden said. “If I took them blindfolded and took them to LaGuardia airport in New York, he would like ‘I must be in some third world country.’ I’m not joking.”
De Blasio called the analogy “inappropriate” and said the vice president’s comments were “not his finest moment.”
“LaGuardia obviously needs an upgrade, but that being said the airport manages an extraordinary amount of traffic and the people work there make it work under very difficult circumstances,” de Blasio said at a press conference on Friday.
“So as a proud New Yorker, I didn’t like that comment, and I think it was not the right way to talk about it.”
Biden’s Hong Kong analogy was a novel, Bidenesque spin on a well-worn Obama administration pitch for more investment in U.S. infrastructure. But it could easily have been a plug for his favorite mode of transportation – the train.
It just so happened that he was speaking at an event to unveil Amtrak’s new electric locomotive, where he praised America’s only long-haul passenger railroad as vital to transportation along the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.
Biden has been riding Amtrak forever, estimating he made 8,000 trips between his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and Washington during his years in the Senate.
“It’s hard to imagine what life would be along the corridor without Amtrak. It is not hyperbole to suggest I-95 would be a parking lot.”
Underscoring the need for a reinvestment in the nation’s infrastructure, Biden highlighted the diminishing stature of its transportation facilities compared with those internationally.
“Just in the last decade the United States has fallen 20 spots when it comes to the quality of infrastructure in America. It’s embarrassing and it’s stupid. It’s stupid. That puts us literally behind. They rank us behind Barbados. Great country, one airport,” he said.
“Look folks, not a joke, we need to reinvest and modernize our whole infrastructure, especially in rail,” he said.
Ironically, Amtrak competes with airlines that fly out of LaGuardia for business up and down the Northeast Corridor, boasting that it’s downtown-to-downtown services are more convenient, especially those premium-paying business travelers who – you guessed it – pack LaGuardia on a daily basis.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates LaGuardia, responded to Biden’s comments.
“Significant investment in transportation infrastructure is the key to growing our economy and creating jobs, which is why the Port Authority this week proposed a 10-year $27 billion capital plan that creates more than 126,000 jobs and invests $8 billion in modernizing the region’s airports,” it said in a statement.
“We are fast-tracking efforts that have lagged for more than a decade and investing $3.6 billion through an innovative public-private partnership to build a new Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia Airport that will provide passengers with a world-class terminal,” it said.