This Month In History
October 2016

This Month in NYS History – New York Municipal Airport (LaGuardia) Dedicated in Queens, New York – October 15, 1939

Mayor La Guardia made a push in 1937 to give New York City its first domestic airport.
Mayor La Guardia made a push in 1937 to give New York City its first domestic airport.
After many years of having Newark Liberty International Airport as the only airport serving the New York City area, Mayor of New York Fiorello La Guardia made a push in 1937 to give New York City its first domestic airport.

The land chosen was a private flying strip in northern Queens known as North Beach Airport. The land was too small to be a domestic airport, but the proximity to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel was seen as a major selling point for travelers. To rectify the issue, a metal framework was built that expanded land outward which was then filled with landfill from nearby Rikers Island. To this day, the metal used to expand the land still causes interference with the compasses on modern aircraft.

American Airlines was one of the first airlines to offer to assist with the planning of the airport, and because of this, was given preferential treatment by Mayor La Guardia with a total of four total hangars at the airport, unheard of at the time. American then used the airport to launch its first Admirals Club, an exclusive and ritzy club for high end fliers such as celebrities, politicians and those who used the airline extensively.

The airport was officially dedicated on October 15, 1939 and opened in December of that year. In 1947, the airport was placed under control of the Port Authority, and was officially named after the man who first came up with the idea for a New York City airport, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. The airport opened with four total runways, but was later reduced to just two for insurance of appropriate length for larger aircraft in the age of jumbo jets.

After Idlewild (later John F. Kennedy International Airport) became the premier destination after opening in 1948, LaGuardia’s air traffic suffered. As LaGuardia was a solely domestic airport, Kennedy Airport became the preferred destination for flights to and from New York City as it allowed for international travel.

After years of neglect and lessening air traffic, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden announced in 2015 that the airport would receive a total overhaul and become a premier airport to depart and arrive at once again. Construction began in 2016 on a plan that will connect the airport via mass transit to several key locations in New York City and transform several terminals, with completion scheduled for 2021.