EAST ELMHURST — The estimated $4 billion gut renovation of LaGuardia Airport will turn the outdated place into a modern facility, but local pols said they'll fight to keep the community's best interests in mind during construction.
The plan was praised Monday after it was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden, who last year said the airport resembled a “third-world country”
The dig about LaGuardia, which is widely considered one of the worst airports in the country because of its outdated facilities and delays, prompted Cuomo to launch a design competition for smaller renovations.
But after trying to develop a larger plan for the airport, Cuomo said the Port Authority realized it couldn’t be fixed piece by piece.
“We need to literally tear it down and rebuild it,” he said.
Construction, set to begin in 2016 with completion by 2021, will include demolishing Terminal B to build a larger, central terminal that is 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway.
This restructuring will create 2 miles of new space for planes to taxi, which will reduce delays, officials said.
And while the panel overseeing construction and offering suggestions skews heavily towards developers — it’s lead by Dan Tishman, chairman of the Tishman Construction Corporation and a top donor to Cuomo — it also includes Borough President Melinda Katz, who said the communities around LaGuardia are her top priority.
“My role on this committee was to take into account the community concerns of rebuilding the airport,” she said.
“One is rebuilding the actual site, and the other is clearly the noise [from air traffic.]”
Noise from increased air traffic is currently being examined through a study with the FAA, which will give a more accurate assessment of air traffic noise from planes landing and taking off from LaGuardia, Katz said.
“It's really the first time we're going to be placing monitors to get a vision and a reading on the perimeter of the noise,” she said.
It's not clear how the findings of the current noise study will be taken into consideration with the new construction, especially this early on.
Some of the other ideas from the panel, like increased parking at the airport and reconfiguring the site’s roads, stemmed from traffic concerns around the surrounding areas, Katz said.
There will also be a ''cell phone lot'' so people picking up travelers don’t idle on residential streets or on the shoulder of the Grand Central Parkway, she said.
State Sen. Tony Avella, who has been active with groups pushing to limit air traffic congestion, said he has concerns about traffic inreases and additional flights over Queens.
"We need to ensure that as this project goes forward, we are addressing these and any other issues that arise," he said in a statement.