LaGuardia Airport, Aerial View
Construction of New York’s LaGuardia Airport was among the largest undertakings of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) and included both today’s main airport (then the “landplane field”) and what is now the Marine Air Terminal (then the “seaplane division”). The airport was constructed on the site of the former North Beach Airport between 1937 and 1939. Under Mayor LaGuardia the city began expanding the site with landfill from Rikers Island. At the time of its completion, LaGuardia was among the most advanced airports in the world. The 1939 WPA Guide to New York City (p.567) describes the new project:
“[At] Grand Central Parkway and Ninety-fourth Street, scheduled for opening in the summer of 1939, is New York’s second municipal airport – Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn is the first – and the most important land and seaplane terminal in the East. Situated on a 432-acre tract projecting into the East River between Bowery and Flushing Bays, the field is only twenty minutes ride, by way of Grand Central Parkway and Triborough Bridge, from mid-town Manhattan.
The seaplane division is designed to accommodate regular transatlantic airplane travel… Its facilities will eventually include two hangars holding twelve to fourteen planes; a marine traffic terminal connecting with the hangars by tunnel; an administration building containing waiting and baggage rooms, and offices for navigation, flight control, health, customs, and immigration; and a platform ramp on Flushing Bay for landing passengers.
The landplane field will be used as the eastern terminus for the planes of the Transcontinental and Western, the American, the United, and the Eastern air lines, replacing Newark Airport in this respect. Its facilities will comprise four concrete runways measuring 4,688, 4,168, 3,900, and 3,532 feet, unobstructed runway approaches of several hundred feet, and an administration building flanked by six hangars.
The cost of the airport is estimated at $22,000,000, of which 70 percent will be borne by WPA. Work was begun early in 1938.”
The WPA eventually contributed $27 million to the project. As of Spring 1939, more than 20,000 WPA relief workers worked on the project.
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The WPA Guide to New York City, Federal Writers Project, Random House (1939), p.567 "Digital Archives of Broward County Library", last accessed September 2015 La Guardia Airport and the Marine Air Terminal - kermitproject.org
Project originally submitted by Evan Kalish, Frank da Cruz on February 9, 2015.