Press Release

October 11, 2018

Diverse Coalition Formed in Support of Building an
AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport

A Better Way to LGA represents community members, economic development groups, transportation advocates, unionized labor, civic stakeholders, and local business leaders who believe it is essential for New York’s future to have a fast and reliable transit alternative for LaGuardia Airport travelers and workers.

NEW YORK – On October 11, more than a dozen organizations joined together to announce the launch of A Better Way to LGA, a new coalition in support of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport (AirTrain LGA). The coalition is comprised of community members, economic development groups, transportation advocates, unionized labor, civic stakeholders, and local business leaders, and is co-chaired by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, the Association for a Better New York, and the New York Building Congress.

LaGuardia Airport is currently undergoing an $8-billion renovation during which the airport will be completely rebuilt. Today the Port Authority submitted a series of analyses to the FAA, which will oversee the AirTrain’s environmental review. A Better Way to LGA believes that AirTrain LGA is a critical component of the overall redevelopment efforts taking place at LaGuardia.

LaGuardia is the only major East Coast airport without a direct rail connection, and this has negative repercussions for surrounding neighborhoods and the City writ large. Traffic from the Grand Central Parkway and adjacent roads has inundated the entire community and crippled its ability to get around.

“Queens businesses are forced to pay a hidden Grand Central Parkway tax due to constant traffic on the roads around LaGuardia, delaying deliveries and hurting workers. And it’s only getting worse each year,” said Tom Grech, President and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “The AirTrain will take millions of cars off the road and reduce traffic on our local streets, making it easier for Queens residents to get around, small businesses to make deliveries, and employees and customers to get to work or shop locally. It’s a proven model that has done wonders for JFK, and we simply can’t wait any longer to move forward on this project.”

In 2017, over 29 million travelers flew in and out of LaGuardia Airport, a number that will increase by an estimated six million by 2030.  With ever increasing road congestion, these air travelers – and the more than 10,000 LaGuardia Airport employees – need a fast and reliable transit alternative.

AirTrain LGA will connect with public transportation at Willets Point, relieving congestion at LaGuardia. Willets Point Station will be modernized, made accessible to people with disabilities, and designed for travelers with luggage, providing a seamless transition to AirTrain LGA.  Passengers traveling from Manhattan would reach Willets Point in 16 minutes on the Long Island Railroad, with direct, non-stop service from Penn Station (as well as Grand Central Station pending the completion of the East Side Access project). From Willets Point, it’s just six minutes to the airport. Alternatively, passengers can take the 7 Line Subway and transfer at Willets Point.

“The proposed AirTrain LGA would make the dream of a 30-minute ride from Midtown Manhattan to LaGuardia a reality,” said Angela Pinsky, Executive Director of the Association for a Better New York. “The AirTrain would finally give our business travelers reliability and dependability, and would give our tourists a welcome impression of the world’s greatest city they expect and deserve. We need a reliable rail link to LaGuardia, and the Association for a Better New York is proud to be leading the way on this critical project.”

Average roadway travel speeds in Midtown Manhattan have decreased by nearly 30% over the past five years – from 6.5 to 4.7 mph. Regional travel models project current travel times to and from LaGuardia will increase by up to 50% by 2045. Year after year, the City is losing out in overall productivity due to the effects of traffic and congestion.  AirTrains have been proven effective in the NYC market: from 2007 to 2016, AirTrain Newark handled more than 21 million paid passengers, while AirTrain JFK handled more than 58 million – keeping cars off local streets, and smog out of the air.

“LaGuardia is currently undergoing an $8 billion transformation to reimagine the airport for the 21st century, and it’s essential that the development of AirTrain LGA be a part of that vision,” said Carlo A. Scissura, President and CEO of the New York Building Congress.  “A recent report from the New York Building Congress demonstrates the number of tourists visiting New York City swelled to 62.8 million in 2017, yet our infrastructure investments have failed to keep pace. Traffic congestion is crippling our commercial districts and has spread to every corner of the city. As New York’s population and tourism industry continue to grow, ensuring people can efficiently travel to and from our region’s airports is one of our most crucial priorities.”

Now that legislation has passed by the New York State Legislature and been signed into law by Governor Cuomo, the next step is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the AirTrain. A Better Way to LGA calls on the EIS process to be completed by Q4 of 2019.

Specifically, A Better Way to LGA calls on the EIS, in addition to evaluating impacts like noise and traffic mitigation, to include robust engagement with relevant community stakeholders, and evaluate the following areas:

  • Placement of the transfer station at Willets Point as close as possible to the Long Island Railroad to ensure a fast and seamless transfer;

  • Potential transfer, today or in the future, of LaGuardia employee parking, passenger parking and/or additional car rental facilities at Willets Point;

  • Impact on Grand Central Parkway and traffic if the AirTrain is not built; and 

  • Ensuring that any options explored meet the criteria of providing a travel time between Midtown Manhattan and LaGuardia of 30 minutes or less.

A Better Way to LGA Coalition Members:

  • Association for a Better New York (Co-Chair)

  • New York Building Congress (Co-Chair)

  • Queens Chamber of Commerce (Co-Chair)

  • Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York

  • Delta Air Lines

  • The General Contractors Association of New York

  • Global Gateway Alliance

  • Hotel Association of New York City

  • JetBlue Airways Corporation

  • LaGuardia Gateway Partners

  • Long Island Association

  • Long Island City Partnership

  • New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council

  • New York Mets

  • NYU Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management

  • Queens Economic Development Corporation

  • Teamsters Joint Council 16

  • Transport Workers Union

  • United Airlines

Additional Quotes from A Better Way to LGA Coalition Members:

Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York: “We are proud to support AirTrain LGA, a critical piece of infrastructure that will modernize the trip to LaGuardia. This project will provide a boost to our local economy, and create thousands of high-skilled, high-paying jobs for New Yorkers. The unpredictability associated with flying in and out of LaGuardia is holding us back as a City, and with AirTrain LGA we’ll finally have a mass transit option everyone can rely on.”

Henry Kuykendall, Senior Vice President – Northeast Airport Operations, Delta Air Lines: “With many thousands of Delta flights into and out of LaGuardia Airport each year, we want to ensure that our customers have the best trip possible, and that trip starts at home. The AirTrain will improve the experience for millions of fliers with a convenient and reliable commute befitting of the new, world-class LaGuardia.”

Denise Richardson, Executive Director, General Contractors Association of New York: "A 21st Century New York economy deserves 21st Century airport access. The GCA is proud to support the Governor’s vision for AirTrain LGA – and we look forward to turning it into reality to help maintain New York’s rightful role as the Empire State.”

Vijay Dandapani, President and CEO, Hotel Association of New York City: “The Hotel Association of New York City which represents most of NYC’s hotels is delighted with the Governor’s proposal for an AirTrain to LaGuardia. This long overdue link fills a vital gap in the transportation infrastructure linking LaGuardia, which is a major entry point for business travelers to the City and to our city’s hotels. Not only will this reduce the travel time to and from LaGuardia Airport considerably, but it will also spur significant growth both in the business and leisure market for New York City. This will thereby ensure that the City’s vibrant business, cultural and social environment continues to thrive."

Jeffrey Goodell, Vice President Government and Airport Affairs, JetBlue Airways Corporation: “As New York’s Hometown Airline, we’re excited to see progress toward improving public transportation access to LaGuardia, the only major East Coast airport without a rail connection. Not only will AirTrain LGA be a great benefit for business and leisure travelers alike, but it will help take cars off congested roadways — and that’s great news for the environment and the local Queens community.”

Stewart Steeves, CEO of LaGuardia Gateway Partners: “Investment in better transportation options is key to bringing LaGuardia into the 21st century, and the new AirTrain at LaGuardia is a necessary piece of infrastructure that will provide streamlined transportation to and from the airport, reduce traffic on the Grand Central Parkway and local streets, and align with existing mass transit services in the area. With continued support from the Governor and our partners, the new AirTrain is a crucial part of our vision to create a unified airport with a top-class visitor experience worthy of the greatest city in the world.”

Kevin Law, President and Chief Executive Officer, Long Island Association: “AirTrain LGA will provide a better commute for Long Island residents and visitors who will benefit from more reliable service to a revitalized Willets Point Station. This project will also cut travel times for those traveling by car, reducing congestion on Queens streets and the major arteries connecting us to New York City. The Long Island Association is proud to stand with A Better Way to LGA.”

Elizabeth Lusskin, President, Long Island City Partnership: “At the Long Island City Partnership, our mission is to support economic development that will strengthen our authentic industrial, commercial, residential, retail and cultural attraction mixed-use neighborhood. We applaud the Governor’s investment in AirTrain LGA, a critical project that will create jobs, provide New Yorkers and global visitors with new mass-transit options, and create opportunities to support Queens businesses and tourism attractions.

Rich Maroko, Vice President, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council: “The Hotel Trades Council is proud to support the Governor’s vision for AirTrain LGA. The lack of reliable transportation options to LaGuardia Airport means more and more business travelers are choosing to avoid flying to New York entirely, which prevents the city from achieving its economic potential. The AirTrain will make New York an attractive destination for both business and leisure, and will revitalize our growing tourism economy.”

Seth Bornstein, Executive Director, Queens Economic Development Corporation: “The AirTrain is a crucial part of the ongoing transformation of LaGuardia Airport into the world-class transportation hub New York City deserves. The current lack of public transit options to LaGuardia has led to severe congestion clogging our local streets, which hurts air passengers, Queens residents, and local business owners alike. AirTrain LGA will help relieve this burden on the Queens community while creating opportunities to promote tourism and strengthen our Queens economy.”

George Miranda, President, Teamsters Joint Council 16: "Teamsters Joint Council 16 is proud to support the AirTrain LGA project. The AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport is a critical addition to New York’s transportation infrastructure, which in recent years has failed to keep pace with the City’s growing needs. LaGuardia is home to thousands of good jobs for New York's working families, and AirTrain LGA will help create even more."

John Samuelsen, International President, Transport Workers Union: “The AirTrain to LaGuardia is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve New York’s crumbling, public transportation infrastructure. This project is long overdue and will not only give major headway to the biggest city in America’s economic development goals, but also create the good-paying, stable jobs our communities are built upon. The long-awaited revitalization of the Willets Point Station will also provide much-needed transit for Queens residents, and the thousands of LaGuardia Airport employees who currently rely on buses, personal cars, and in some cases bikes, for their daily commutes. Nearly every other major city in the world has public transit linked to their international airports – it’s about time New York City does, too.”

About A Better Way to LGA: A Better Way to LGA is a diverse coalition of community members, economic development groups, transportation advocates, civic stakeholders, and local business leaders who recognize the importance of providing fast and reliable transit alternatives for LaGuardia Airport travelers.