EAST ELMHURST — The long-delayed quest for an interfaith chapel at LaGuardia Airport — at one time estimated to be accomplished by the end of this year — won’t take flight until sometime next year, airline officials have indicated.
The estimate on the fate of the chapel is the latest in a series of predictions dating back to October 2021, when The Tablet first reported about how Father Chris Piasta, Catholic chaplain at JFK and LaGuardia airports, has struggled to get a chapel as part of ongoing renovations at LaGuardia.
Father Piasta’s campaign for that chapel began in 2016, when ground was broken at LaGuardia on an $8 billion renovation involving Terminals B, C, and D. At that time, he requested a designated chapel for religious services. He was instead offered a meditation room in Terminal B but said that wasn’t sufficient because he couldn’t celebrate Mass there and would also have difficulty hearing confessions without exclusive access to the room.
Next, Vincent LeVien, director of external affairs for DeSales Media Group, contacted officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK and LaGuardia airports, to explain why the newly renovated airport needed an interfaith chapel. DeSales Media is the ministry that produces The Tablet. LeVein also contacted the office of Gov. Kathy Hochul.
As a result, in early 2022, officials from Delta, DeSales, Port Authority, the chaplains, and Hochul’s office met to form a solution. Delta subsequently pledged to include a chapel in the new Terminal C.
The airline stated in a June 2022 news release that the new terminal would be fully completed at the end of 2024. Delta initially offered the possibility that the terminal would be completed in late 2023.
Port Authority spokesman Tom Pietrykoski confirmed in late 2022 that a conference room in the new Central Hall — pre-security, separate from Terminal C and the interfaith chapel — would also be available for religious services. However, it wasn’t yet ready due to “general construction delays.” On Aug. 28, 2023, Pietrykoski provided another update.
“I was able to confirm that the prayer space will indeed be open when the Central Hall opens,” he said in an email, “but we do not have a date yet. I can let you know once we have that information.”
As of Sept. 19, spokespersons at Delta had not yet responded to The Tablet’s repeated requests for a construction update.
But, said Father Piasta, “I have not heard of any changes to the program, so I think that’s still valid.”
Meanwhile, the chaplain shared updated renderings of the chapel space as proposed by Delta.
The original plans, which call for a space of 560 total square feet, were sent in 2022 to Father Piasta and chaplains of other faiths. Delta’s design team wanted the chaplains to see images of the bench seats and podium planned for the chapel, which are depicted in the latest design, Father Piasta said.
But newer renderings also depict two stained-glass windows that originally hung in the former Lady of the Skies Chapel at JFK Airport. The 2022 designs did not show the windows.
“They were very interested in getting those installed, and this (latest) rendering reflects that,” the chaplain added.