MIAMI — A $500,000 contest for design plans to modernize and revitalize LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports was unveiled October 20 at a press conference held by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. By his side at the press conference was Vice President Joe Biden, who famously called LaGuardia “a third world airport” in remarks at an event in Philadelphia in February.

And a report released in October by the Global Gateway Alliance, a partnership created to address issues with the three New York City Airports, said that while amenities at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark have improved, they still lag behind other top airports in the United States.

Cuomo hopes that the Master Plan Design Competition will bring fresh perspective to the city’s two airports. For LaGuardia, designers are being asked to redesign LaGuardia Airport to function more efficiently in the following areas: improving transportation to the airport; redesigning the airport layout to increase access; offering state-of-the-art amenities to offer best-in-class customer service and a diverse food and retail experience; and creating a more resilient infrastructure in order to prepare the airport’s facilities to meet increasing and extreme weather threats.  As part of the effort, Cuomo pledges to work with the federal government to make New York airspace more efficient by speeding up the use of NextGen air traffic control technology.

For the JFK AIrport competition, Cuomo said submitted designs should include: enhancing the facility’s transportation network, including the existing AirTrain, parking areas and the subway and Long Island Rail Road; increasing hotel capacity in the immediate area surrounding the airport; implementing state-of-the-art dining and shopping amenities in the airport; and upgrading facilities to modernize the airport.

In its October report, the Global Gateway Alliance created a top 10 list of actionable items for LaGuardia and JFK, including: working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, airlines, private developers and other stakeholders for a timely redevelopment of LaGuardia’s Central Terminal Building; research new options to improve airport access and transportation including the creation of dedicated lanes to airports and an HOV lane at all three airports, as well as better mass transit options; advocate for the full rollout of NextGen technology at the three New York metro airports, including prioritizing our airports for initial implementation of NextGen nationwide; and help enhance passenger amenities, including access to free wireless services.

During his State of the State address In January 2014, Cuomo announced that New York state would take over management responsibility for construction at LaGuardia and JFK airports as a way to help break gridlock and make necessary improvements. The two airports were constructed in 1939 and 1960, respectively, and have experienced substantial passenger growth. In 2013, the airports served more people than at any other time in their history – a total 77 million passengers, or roughly a quarter of the entire U.S. population.Both airports employ 50,000 people and generate approximately $53 billion in annual economic activity to the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region.

In the next thirty days, design firms will have 60 days to develop their plans, which must include a project timeline and public/private sector partnerships to finance and run elements of the redesign. The Port Authority Board of Commissioners will select the best three designs for each airport, and those finalists will each receive up to $500,000 to further develop their concept for further consideration.


Here’s the 43-minute press conference video