A Different Idea for LaGuardia Airport

It may be too late to pivot on the recently announced rebuilding of New York City's LaGuardia Airport, but Jim Venturi has some ideas about how New York can solve two critical problems—one infrastructural, one humanitarian—at the same time.

2 minute read

July 29, 2015, 11:00 AM PDT

By Josh Stephens @jrstephens310


LaGuardia Airport

ERIC SALARD / Flickr

To many air travelers, New York's LaGuardia Airport feels like a prison. It suffers notorious delays, is difficult to get to, and, according to surveys, is as unpleasant as airports get. But most LaGuardia customers can only imagine what goes on a few hundred meters outside of LaGuardia's boundaries at the city's Rikers Island prison complex. 

This week federal, city, and state officials announced that LaGuardia would be torn down and replaced with a brand-new terminal, to the tune of $4 billion. Writing for The Architect's Newspaper, Jim Venturi argues that the redesign of LaGuardia should think bigger: it should also include the demolition of Rikers. 

Rikers' ten jails house between 12,000 and 15,000 prisoners in any given day. Many of these jails are in ghastly shape, with abuse and mismanagement fairly well documented. Venturi proposes that Rikers' jails be relocated and spread out among the five boroughs, in part to make them more accessible and therefore more human. "Any jail on an island will be toxic," writes Venturi. In Rikers' place, Venturi proposes that LaGuardia absorb the island (via landfill) and replace it with a vast runway complex that could make it "the world's leading airport....By adding this infrastructure and increasing airport capacity, we would gain a significant opportunity to expand New York City’s economy beyond Manhattan."

Not only that, Venturi has a plan for transportation to the airport, proposing a new train station in the Bronx that would take pressure off Manhattan's notorious Penn Station and serve as a high-capacity transfer point for the new LaGuardia. 

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