NEW YORK CITY — The last time he mentioned LaGuardia Airport, Vice President Joseph Biden made news when he said it looked like a "third world country."
The remark drew the ire of Mayor Bill de Blasio and other New Yorkers.
"And he was right, by the way. Or at least he was right enough," Cuomo said during an event at the College of Aeronautics and Technology in Queens.
In spite of a record 50 million passengers at JFK and a record 26 million passengers at LaGuardia, Cuomo said the airports are not serving the needs of travelers. Both airports are old, with LaGuardia built in 1939 and JFK in 1960.
In addition to the footprints of JFK and LaGuardia being too small, it also takes too long to get to the airports from Manhattan, Cuomo said.
And while JFK and LaGuardia lack amenities, Dubai's airport has two hotels at two different terminals and two business centers.
"They do business in the airport as a meeting place itself. We must modernize our airports if we want to keep our competitive advantage and grow," said Cuomo.
Under the design competition plan — which begins in a month — groups will have 60 days to submit plans that modernize and upgrade both airports.
At LaGuardia, that includes a link with the Long Island Rail Road, adding ferry service to increase access from Manhattan, and adding more retail and food establishments.
At JFK, the goal is to increase connectivity between the AirTrain and subway and increase hotels and meeting spaces.
The top three plans will receive $500,000 each to expand on their project before a winner is chosen.
The winning design will coincide with Jet Blue's existing $740 million terminal expansion at JFK and the planned new central terminal for LaGuardia.
The design competition will also work with plans to improve Republic Airport on Long Island and Stewart International Airport in the Hudson Valley.
Joseph Sitt, president and founder of the Global Gateway Alliance, a group that has pushed for modernization of New York City's airports, called the proposal just a first step.
“We hope that this is a serious plan with a clear timeline, budget, and accountability for success, not just political words," Sitt said.