Overhauling La Guardia, an Airport With a Historical Name but a Tarnished Image

The New York Times

July 29, 2015

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has declared that the $4 billion rebuilding planned at La Guardia Airport in Queens will amount to replacing the airport “in its entirety.”

So is it time, after 76 years, to replace the name, too?

Patrick J. Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs New York City’s airports, said this week that there were no plans to do so.

But in the era of brand consciousness and corporate sponsorship, when stadiums and arenas change names as often as people change socks, it is worth asking whether the La Guardia brand has outlived its usefulness. If an entirely new airport emerges in the coming years, will its 1939 name even be relevant?

… I asked an expert about the wisdom of rebranding. “You want to make sure you’re not throwing out a positive legacy,” said Enshalla Anderson, the executive director for consumer products at FutureBrand, a brand consultancy and a unit of the Interpublic Group. “La Guardia was known for being a visionary.”

“I don’t know that the name has to be the symbol of change,” she said, “because there will be so many other symbols.”

In bold strokes, the plan outlined by Mr. Cuomo would consolidate three outmoded terminals in a single structure, built closer to the Grand Central Parkway to create aircraft taxiways. It could be reached by light rail and ferry.

Ms. Anderson said, “What we would consider is, does the name have the elasticity to manage the transformation that we’re talking about?”

Mitchell L. Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University who first flew out of La Guardia on Mohawk Airlines in 1955, believes it does.

“We’re finally going to have an airport equal to the mayor’s name,” he said. …

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