The Global Gateway Alliance, a coalition founded by real estate developer Joe Sitt to improve New York City’s airports, is taking aim at the lack of viable mass transit access to LaGuardia Airport.
At City & State’s State of Our City forum at Baruch College, Global Gateway Alliance Executive Director Stephen Sigmund called for the revival of the N line extension to LaGuardia Airport, which was originally part of a MTA capital plan that got discarded in 2000 as a result of community opposition. At the time, the Daily News’ editorial board called at the time ‘NAMBYism,’ or Not-Above-My-Backyard, because the rail line would have been built on elevated tracks.
“It is very realistic. I mean 14 years ago it was a plan, not a proposal,” Sigmund noted. “It is extremely important. LaGuardia is really the only close business airport in the country that doesn’t connect directly to mass transit. …A plan that was in the works and so far along really should be revived. Particularly around the conversation of the Central Terminal building at LaGuardia, [it] presents an opportunity to really remake the airport.”
Sigmund went on to point out that airports like Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and Midway in Chicago each have direct connections to the city center, putting LaGuardia at a competitive disadvantage.
Another panelist, William Wheeler, the MTA’s director of special project development planning, said the city’s mass transit ridership is at a high point, with more people riding the subway now than the previous post World War II high in 1946, and that any new project—an extension or a new line—comes down to a matter of balancing priorities. The extension of the N line would also have to take into account other potential uses like connecting more riders between the suburbs and the city, Wheeler added.
The lengthy development process for major projects is another hurdle.
“When we were developing the original idea for the East Side Access … when we started the environmental process, my son was in grade school,” Wheeler said. “We didn’t finish the environmental process and get into design until he was almost done high school. Those mega projects, which capture the imagination … they take too darn long to build. The challenge now is to try to make the best use out of the existing system.”