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In 2012, Travel and Leisure magazine named LaGuardia the nation’s worst airport, saying it had the “dubious honor of ranking the worst for the check-in and security process, the worst for baggage handling, the worst when it comes to providing Wi-Fi, the worst at staff communication, and the worst design and cleanliness.”

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, concedes the facility is in need of an overhaul and had already begun awarding contracts for preliminary work at LaGuardia. A spokesman said it welcomes the state’s involvement to expedite the project.

Four companies have been asked to submit proposals for the Central Terminal Building project by April 15, and construction is expected to begin by the end of the year. The tricky part will come when construction is fully underway while the airport continues to serve millions.

“Everybody acknowledges that this is a complex undertaking but one that is absolutely necessary,” said Stephen Sigmund, executive director of the Global Gateway Alliance, which has advocated for improvements at New York’s airports.

“It’s going to be a nightmare,” added Robert Mann, an airline industry analyst. “This is going to be the equivalent of General Motors trying to change one of its models while the assembly line is still running. … But this is the way airports get redeveloped. Every airline understands this.”

Darius Douglass, a New York writer waiting for a flight at LaGuardia, said the workers throughout the airport try to be friendly and helpful. “But it’s an old airport. It just needs to be refurbished. It was good in its heyday, but nothing has been done.”