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Gristmill: Terminal Dreaming

Wed, 03/15/2023 - 18:37
At La Guardia Airport’s redone Terminal C.
Baylis Greene

One of the benefits of having children is that your existence is instantly justified. One of the drawbacks is you have to worry about the world after you’re gone.

Put another way, you have to hope society holds together for their sake. For their future employment, prosperity, happiness, maybe their own families when the time comes.

To put a finer point on it, has your hair returned to its regularly flattened state after it was on end at this week’s two bank failures, one, an institution with the bargain basement name of Signature, reaching to our own lengthy Island? No domino effect this time, right? No more runs? Just two overextended financial outliers with next-to-no liquidity, is that it?

Oh boy.

And so it is that I have to report that in a bad week for stability I found renewed faith in the unlikeliest of places, the new La Guardia Airport. With its vast acreage of what looked like travertine marble, light pouring through soaring windows, the innovative use of slim two-story digital screens for no purpose other than eye-candy video of a boat cutting across a body of water, it put me in mind of my question for the gods or planners when I took my then-13-year-old son to an ELO concert at Madison Square Garden in 2018: “Since when is this place not a dump?” (What can I say, I hadn’t been there since I was a kid and Walt Frazier was still playing for the Knicks.)

Are you telling me that the decades of concrete traffic dividers and orange construction netting actually, finally paid off? Call me a rube, but even La Guardia’s E-ZPass-triggered short-term parking garage was a treat.

The highlight, though, was the W.P.A.-style public art to ease the troubled minds of harried and hustling travelers, in particular Rashid Johnson’s towering tile mosaic, “The Travelers’ Broken Crowd,” which has to be seen to be believed. And I didn’t even make it out of the Delta terminal.

We can agree that politics brings out the worst in people, but to go there for a moment, Trump had a point when he contrasted the gleaming airports abroad with the “disgrace” of those stateside. There was a missed opportunity in that he didn’t hold on to reality, heed the advice of Chris Matthews, the former MSNBC commentator, and run and then govern as a builder focused on fixing infrastructure.

It may have cost $4 billion for Terminal C alone, but now at least we have this example, and in blue-state La Guardia, no less. There’s hope.

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