The third biggest airport in the New York metropolitan area, LaGuardia is undergoing a massive overhaul. LaGuardia has been controversial regarding all its obsolete facilities…, poor air operations, and poor customer service in the past couple of years.
It has been the airport everyone loves to hate, with President Joe Biden making offhanded cracks about it back in 2014, and President Donald Trump calling it a national embarrassment in 2011.
As a response to all these criticisms, Ports Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has announced an 8-billion-dollar reconstruction of the airport’s infrastructure, constructing a whole new LaGuardia Airport, with the goal of creating a world-class, 21st century passenger experience featuring state-of-the-art architecture and modern facilities.
Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, said, “It’s got a quaint, nostalgic but unacceptable kind of 1940s, 1950s feel that’s just not acceptable.”
“The fact is LaGuardia was an embarrassment,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “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.
The groundbreaking happened in 2016, with two thirds of the project being funded through private investment.
The first step of the way was marked by Terminal B Parking Garage construction in March 2016, and then began the groundbreaking for the Terminal B, in June 2016. Terminal C Groundbreaking for Delta Air Lines took place in August 2017.
New concourse and gates opened at LaGuardia’s Terminal B in July 2020, marking a significant progress in the airport’s restoration. In the same period, Terminal B became the world’s first airline terminal to earn LEED v4 gold certification for sustainability. Terminal B also won UNESCO’s prestigious 2021 prix
Versailles for best new airport in the world. Terminal B construction was managed by LaGuardia Gateway Partners and valued at $4B in construction value, which is the largest private-public partnership in US aviation history.
Opening of Delta’s Terminal C happened in June 2022, marking substantial completion of the entire new LaGuardia Airport project. Delta consolidated its two terminals, Terminal C and D, into a centralized Terminal C headhouse.
Thanks to the pandemic, the massive project is on track to be completed two years ahead of schedule due to lower passenger traffic.
Here are some features what you can expect in the new project.
The redevelopment includes a new 35-gate terminal, a parking garage, roadways and supporting infrastructure.
New Terminal Experience
The new Terminal B departures level is much larger and offers four check-in islands with 75 individual check-in kiosks. There are 16 designated security lanes — three times the space for security checks. Dynamic signage in the TSA queue displays passenger wait times and allows queue zones to be adjusted based on passenger demand.
Security screening at LaGuardia’s new Terminal B now includes three state-of-the-art technology systems to expedite screening while prioritizing the safety of passengers. Checked baggage is screened more efficiently using an Artificial Intelligence-based, robotic assisted convenience system which quickly troubleshoots and diverts high-risk baggage for deeper inspection. Passengers with carry-on baggage will notice a new automated bin sequencing and retrieval system as they go through the TSA check point. New body screening and metal detecting equipment is user friendly, has larger screening areas that eliminate the need to raise arms overhead and features the most advanced imaging technology.
Only one security checkpoint handles all the screening for the terminal but it’s no trouble with 16 lanes, new technology, and plenty of room. Electronic signs divide the lines with separate lanes for TSA pre check, families, and limited-mobility flyers. Informational signs along the way also tell passengers what they need to do when they get to the screening instead of having a TSA officer scream “belts off, laptops out,” etc. The displays are also specific to each line, so TSA Pre-check members see different messages than those in the normal lane, and so on. This TSA checkpoint was also given the latest technology including Credential Authorization Technology, so passengers need only give their identification to the officer and not a boarding pass. Behind the curtain, there’s also upgraded x-ray machines.
Connecting the headhouse with the two concourses are bridges large enough for planes to pass under. This one connects the headhouse with the Eastern Concourse with the second bridge still under construction. The bridges are large enough for narrow-body aircraft like the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, both frequent LaGuardia visitors, to pass under. Having the bridges adds an extra lane for aircraft to use, preventing the congestion that plagued the old terminal.
Artists Jeppe Hein, Sabine Hornig, Laura Owens, and Sarah Sze have created four pieces designed particularly for the new airport Arrivals and Departures Hall through a partnership between Public Art Fund and LaGuardia Gateway Partners.
Local favorites like Eli’s Essentials by New York food legend Eli Zabar, Chef Marc Forgione’s new
Mulberry Street restaurant, Junior’s Cheesecake, Brooklyn Diner, Think Coffee, Tony + Benny’s Authentic Brooklyn Pizza, Hill Country, Texas-themed BBQ founded in NYC, NYC Aglow and Bowery Bay Shops offer locals and tourists a taste of authentic New York.
Cleaning and Restrooms
Cleaning teams, visible by branded vests that they wear, are always on-site and maintain high level of cleaning standards. There are 17 new large bathrooms across the new Arrivals and Departures Hall, featuring touch-free entry, sinks and hand dryers, to create greater opportunities for distancing when compared to the old building.
Each sink is designed with automatic faucets and counter space on top, so passengers have a dry place to put their belongings. Stalls were created extra-wide so luggage can easily fit. The doors are also off-center with lips that prevent any peering in. They’re also hung from the ceiling so that janitors can easily sweep the floors from the outside and ensure cleanliness for travelers.
Signs around the airport not only display flight information but provide passengers guidance on whether they can head to the gate or wait in the lounge area. Flights departing within the next 90 minutes are shown here. If it’s time to board, the icon turns green and says, “go to gate.” If there’s time before a flight, it says “relax” in blue. The signs also tell passengers how long of a walk it is to the gate from
where they are standing. Each sign gives a different walking time depending on where in the gate is located.
Every square inch of the space was utilized to build the new facility, going as close as possible to the Grand Central Parkway. By locating the terminals closer to the Grand Central Parkway, additional space for aircraft taxiways and hold areas was created, reducing ground delays.
“When we set out to design this new terminal, we had very limited real estate to work with at LaGuardia. It is a literal postage stamp of an airport,” says Ryan Marzullo, Delta’s managing director of design and construction.
A huge focus had been put into the security checkpoint, as passengers have to potentially dwell there, waiting for the TSA. A special feature at the checkpoint is digital art showcasing various destinations connected to the flight schedule. Every time that a flight departs from LaGuardia, imagery will show depicting the specific destination. As waiting for the security checkpoint can be the most stressful of the passenger experience, Delta wants to calm the customers and keep them entertained with the digital art.
Terminal C has a LEED Silver certification, with efficient lighting and exterior glass that automatically tints based on the lighting. There is also an ice-making plant that operates during off-hours and reduces the power demand during the peak hours.
Delta has a partnership with Queen’s Museum, featuring local artists’ work on display, highlighting the city’ history, its people and diversity. “Delta is huge on diversity, and we are huge on the communities we serve,” says Marzullo.
OTG Management, has invested heavily in the food experience in LaGuardia, with restaurants such as an outpost of NYC institution Bubby’s, Chuko Ramen, Essex and more.
OTG Management wants to highlight local cuisine with a high-tech experience. Some of the local cuisine they serve are Orwashers Artisanal Buns, Pat LaFrieda Meats, Queen’s-based Hella Cocktail Co, Butcher Girls Hot Dogs, LIC Beer Project and produce from the Hudson Valley.
Delta has a sensory room for the travelers with sensory disabilities. The room offers a supportive environment with different materials on the ground for travelers who have bad eyesight as well as a calm environment for people with other troubles.
There are many enhancements and upgrades throughout the gate area, including many seating with power, and beautiful views of the airfield through massive windows. The usual bustle in airports of people pushing carts will be invisible to your eyes, with that happening behind the scenes and underneath via underground passageways.
Restrooms too are getting upgrades based on feedback from customers. Some enhancements include corridors behind the restrooms, so that janitors can empty the trash away from customers. The entrances to the bathrooms will have mosaic murals representing different parts of New York City, and attention has been paid to increase the spaces in the restrooms in order to reduce the lines. There will also be pet relief areas in all the concourses.
What Does It Mean For Passengers?
The transformation has been so remarkable that the terminal was declared the best new airport building in the world by an international panel of judges.
“We’ve really gone from worst to best and I love it,” said Governor Kathy Hochul
New York City’s new mayor, Eric Adams, recalled how Mr. Biden cited La Guardia as a “stain” on the city’s image, then added, “President Biden, just look at us now.”
Travelers used to race through the concourses trying to avoid contacting any surfaces. Now they dawdle, watching the images projected onto a water fountain and taking selfies in front of art works that cover the walls.
The enthusiasm was so contagious at the airport that Donovan Richards Jr., the Queens borough president, engaged in some magical thinking: “I don’t think La Guardia’s going to be the butt of any more jokes,” he said.
But at least one historic gripe about LaGuardia has not yet been conquered: Access to the airport is likely to continue to induce havoc, since there’s a lingering lack of roadway and parking capacity. The future may already be biting back, too. At Terminal B, ride-hailing services are accommodated as an afterthought, with lines of vehicles and riders wedged into the grim floor of a parking garage.
For those on public transit, access remains execrable, and a much-criticized Cuomo-backed proposal to bring a $2 billion light rail line to the airport is on hold (along with a related lengthy walkway that has yet to connect the two terminals) as Governor Kathy Hochul considers alternatives.
Customers at LaGuardia have steadily increased after the sharp dip due to the pandemic and it is expected that the traffic is going to be much higher to pre-covid levels. It is also expected to reduce the traffic and congestion at the John F. Kennedy and Newark airports.