LaGuardia Airport: New York’s First Major Airport

LaGuardia Airport's Marine Terminal in 1974. (Photo by David Sharpe via WIkimedia Commons)
LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Terminal in 1974. (Photo by David Sharpe via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1939, LaGuardia Airport in New York opened.

Here are some things you may not have known about the closest airport to Manhattan.

LaGuardia was the city’s first major airport.

Until that time, the only commercial airport in the New York region was in Newark, New Jersey. Supposedly, the decision to develop the small North Beach Airport into a commercial terminal came when New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia refused to leave the plane in Newark when his ticket said New York. He demanded to be flown to Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field. At Bennett Field, he held a press conference urging New Yorkers to build an airport in the city.

After that, American Airlines began scheduling flights to Bennett Field, but stopped after several months as they proved unpopular compared to service to Newark.

With backing from the Works Progress Administration, the city and American Airlines began working to expand North Beach Airport. Part of the expansion included moving landfill into a metal framework jutting into the East River and Flushing Bay. That framework still causes magnetic interference for pilots.

It cost $23 million to expand the airfield into a then-modern facility, which was originally called New York Municipal Airport.

In 1942, the airport was reaching its capacity, so the city began construction on another larger airport on the site of Idlewild Golf Course in southwest Queens. Sometimes referred to as Idlewild, New York International Airport opened in 1948.

In 1953, New York Municipal was renamed LaGuardia, six years after the former mayor’s death. Following the death of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, New York International was renamed in Kennedy’s honor.

LaGuardia serves as a regional airport. Since 1984, flights longer than 1,500 miles are prohibited from taking off or landing at LaGuardia from Sunday to Friday. At the time of the rule change, the airport’s longest flights were to Denver, which is 1,600 miles away. Flights to and from the Mile High City are still allowed. Longer flights, including most international flights, land at Newark or Kennedy.

Despite the restrictions, LaGuardia is the 20th busiest airport in the United States.

In 2015, a $4 billion plan to rebuild LaGuardia’s terminals from the ground up was announced. The plan will consolidate the airport’s four terminals into one building. It’s expected to be completed in 2021.

Our question: What Major League Baseball team plays its home games beneath the flightpath leading to LaGuardia Airport?

Today is International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, as well as National Day in Laos and United Arab Emirates.

It’s unofficially National Fritters Day, National Mutt Day, and Safety Razor Day.

It’s the birthday of artist Georges Seurat, who was born in 1859; singer Maria Callas, who was born in 1923; and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who turns 33.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1974, the top song in the U.S. was “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas.

The No. 1 movie was “Earthquake,” while the novel “Centennial” by James Michener topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

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