Every year more than 23 million travelers make their way through New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, which celebrates its 74th birthday today. On Oct. 15, 1939, the airport was officially dedicated as the New York Municipal Airport. It opened for general commercial business on Dec. 2.
The site, originally an amusement park, had been razed and transformed into a private flying field in 1929. During the 1930s, then-mayor Fiorello La Guardia began a campaign to open a New York airport; the only commercial airport at the time was Newark. An initial pilot program with American Airlines eventually expanded, with much assistance from the city.
Expansion of the site required moving landfill from Rikers Island – then a garbage dump – onto a metal reinforced framework. To this day, the metal framework still causes magnetic interference with planes’ compasses.
The expansion cost the city $23 million and was renamed for its champion, LaGuardia, in 1947 when the Port of New York Authority took over control of the airport. These days the airport is showing its age, wining distinctions for being one of the country’s least pleasant flight hubs.