LaGuardia Airport, or LGA, is located on the northern edge of Queens in New York City. (Queens, also home to JFK, is the only borough in New York City with major airports.) LaGuardia was New York City’s first airport, and it opened in 1939. Before then, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey alone served the region. The busiest airport in the United States without nonstop service to Europe, it’s still the least busy of New York’s three metropolitan airports. Most transcontinental flights use JFK or Newark, as there are no border control facilities at LaGuardia. But together with JFK and Newark, LaGuardia is part of the largest airport system in the United States, second in the world for passenger traffic, and first for total flight operations. In 2015, LaGuardia handled 31.4 million passengers. The same year, 129.7 million travelers used New York airports.
The impetus for LaGuardia’s construction came from a mislabeled (or rather misleading) ticket. When then-mayor of New York City, Fiorello La Guardia, landed at Newark in 1933 on a TWA flight, he became incensed that his ticket said “New York.” He demanded to be taken to New York—not New Jersey. The pilot obliged, and the plane shortly afterwards landed in Brooklyn at Floyd Bennett Field (which is still used as a helicopter base by NYPD).
La Guardia gave a heated, if impromptu, press conference on the subject of New York City’s lack of an airport. But Floyd Bennett, in Marine Park, Brooklyn, was farther from Manhattan than Newark, and so not an ideal location. With the backing of the Works Progress Administration, the existing Glenn H. Curtiss Airport (named after the aviation pioneer)—located on the waterfront of Flushing and Bowery Bays in East Elmhurst and bordering the neighborhoods of Astoria and Jackson Heights—would be expanded. Using landfill from Rikers, which was then a garbage dump, the airport eventually covered 680 acres. Renamed North Beach Airport when it opened in 1939, the airport earned its current name in 1953, six years after the iconic mayor, nicknamed “the Little Flower,” passed away.
LaGuardia is accessible by ground transportation and MTA bus service.