Tag Archives: JFK

Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Monday: Mostly cloudy with thunderstorms and a chance of rain. High of 81. Winds from the SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%. Monday night: Mostly cloudy with thunderstorms and a chance of rain. Low of 72. Winds from the SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Saturday Night Fever

Come to Astoria Park at 8:30 p.m. for a free screening of the movie “Saturday Night Fever.”  Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Package of beauty supplies triggers police, FBI response at JFK

Police and federal agents responded to JFK Airport’s postal facility after two customs agents reported a strange odor coming from a package Sunday, officials said. Read more: NBC New York

Quinn aims to raise the legal dropout age to make sure that a legal adult is making the decision

Kids would be legally barred from dropping out of high school until they turn 18 under a proposal announced Sunday by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Read more: New York Daily News 

New York State cracks down on speeders, other traffic violators

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday announced a weeklong crackdown targeting speeders and aggressive drivers around the state. Read more: CBS New York 

Poll: most New Yorkers embarrassed by Weiner, Spitzer

Even most New Yorkers watching Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer in political races dominated by their sex scandals want to forget about it. Read more: AP

Holder: Some drug offenders shouldn’t face mandatory minimum sentences

Attorney General Eric Holder is directing federal prosecutors to change they way they file charges for some drug crimes, to reduce the number of convictions for offenses that carry inflexible, mandatory minimum sentences. Read more: NBC New York


Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Thursday: Overcast with a chance of rain. High of 81. Breezy. Winds from the NE at 15 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 30%. Thursday night: Overcast with a chance of rain. Low of 66. Winds from the NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Waterfront Concert Series 2013

The band Motor City Revue will perform a tribute to Motown at this outdoor concert on the Astoria Park Lawn at 7:30 p.m. Free. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

City Council approves 10-year limit for Madison Square Garden

The New York City Council voted Wednesday to limit Madison Square Garden’s permit at its current spot above Penn Station to 10 years — a decision cheered by civic organizations campaigning to move the home of the Knicks and Rangers so the busy station can be renovated. Read more: AP

Weiner sends email to supporters in wake of latest sexting scandal

Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner issued the following letter to supporters Wednesday, a day after revelations that he exchanged graphic emails and photos with a young woman after he resigned from Congress in 2011. Read more: CBS New York

Queens, N.Y., hit-and-run driver speeds away with bicyclist on roof, flinging him off

A motorist callously ignored the pleas of a bicyclist he cut down in Queens, N.Y., early Wednesday — speeding for almost two blocks as the victim clung to the roof, police and a witness said. Read more: New York Daily News

Shirtless man breaches JFK security

A man who wasn’t wearing a shirt reportedly slipped past a secured checkpoint at JFK International Airport. Read more: Fox New York

Woman, child from Oregon used in Eliot Spitzer campaign ad without permission

A campaign ad for former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer that acknowledges his 2008 prostitution scandal with the admission, “I failed, big time,” features a woman from Oregon who did not authorize the appearance. Read more: NBC New York

Senate approves deal to reverse spike in student loan rates

The Senate on Wednesday approved a bipartisan deal to reverse a recent spike in interest rates on millions of new federal student loans. Read more: Reuters 

Near collision over Queens points to increased air traffic: pol

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Two planes nearly collided over Queens as one aircraft took off and another was completing a landing, officials said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating a June 13 incident in which a Delta Airlines Boeing 747 regional jet arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 2:40 p.m. came perilously close to a Shuttle America Embraer E170 flight departing from LaGuardia Airport.

The planes were turning away from each other when they lost the required three mile separation between them, the agency said in a statement.

Both landed safely, though according to published reports, the two aircraft were at one point only 200 feet apart vertically and about half a mile horizontally.

The FAA said flight routes approved in December “ensure the required three-mile separation” between JFK arrivals and LaGuardia departures while using a new, precise navigation system.

But State Senator Tony Avella said the close call was a warning sign of public safety hazards to come if the administration continues to increase air traffic over the city.

“This latest incident is indicative of this danger,” the lawmaker said. “Unfortunately, if the FAA continues to pursue this goal, near misses could become more common and lead to truly tragic events.”



Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Friday: Overcast with rain in the morning, then partly cloudy. High of 55. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 60%. Friday night: Clear. Low of 34. Breezy. Winds from the NNW at 10 to 20 mph with gusts to 30 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY:  First Friday Film Series at the Noguchi Museum

The Noguchi Museum will continue its First Friday Film Series. Episodes are selected to complement the exhibition Hammer, Chisel, Drill: Noguchi’s Studio Practice and will feature the works of various contemporary artists. Visitors can enjoy extended evening hours from 5 to 8 p.m. with free admission, cash bar and special programming.  Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Man injured when façade collapses at Queens GameStop

A 22-year-old man was taken to Elmhurst hospital after façade collapse at the GameStop he worked at in Queens. Read more: ABC New York

Assault in Forest Park sparks call for more patrols 

Elected officials are pressuring the city to put more parks enforcement officers on patrol after a woman was sexually assaulted in Forest Park last week. Read more: New York Daily News

Major security breach at JFK investigated

TSA workers reportedly let a Kennedy International Airport worker board a flight to Florida without a boarding pass and without being screened. Read more: Fox New York

NYC fast food workers picket, want restaurants to pay $15 per hour

Hundreds of fast food workers and supporters protested outside New York City restaurants Thursday to demand higher wages for their low-paying jobs, including about 60 who chanted “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Minimum wage has got to go!” at a midtown Wendy’s. Read more: CBS New York

Film critic Roger Ebert dies after cancer battle

Roger Ebert could be tough on filmmakers, but unlike many critics, he earned their respect. Read more: AP/ABC New York

Official: Obama proposes cuts to Social Security

President Barack Obama is proposing cuts to Social Security as an attempt to compromise with Republicans on the budget. Read more: AP


Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Thursday: Clear. High of 48. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 20 mph shifting to the SSW in the afternoon.Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 37. Winds from the SSW at 5 to 20 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Diverse Visions of Reality Gallery Exhibit

Federico Castelluccio, who played Furio in The Sopranos, co-presents 11 painters who will exhibit two works each during the
Diverse Visions of Reality Gallery Exhibit at the Diego Salazar Art Studios & Gallery in LIC. The show runs from the April 4 (opening reception) through May 4. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Rash of burglaries prompt emergency meeting in Forest Hills

A rash of burglaries in Forest Hills prompted an emergency community meeting on Tuesday to address rising concerns. Read more: New York Daily News

NYC mayoral candidates spar after ballot bribe scandal

One day after prosecutors charged State Sen. Malcolm Smith for allegedly trying to bribe his way into the mayor’s race, some of the candidates who actually are running for the job showed how the scandal could impact the election. Read more: NBC New York

NYPD cop arrested at JFK on robbery, drug charges

An off-duty New York City police officer has been arrested on charges related to armed robbery and narcotics trafficking. Read more: Fox New York

Report: 18 potential human remains found in WTC debris

A total of 18 pieces that might be human remains were found in debris from around the World Trade Center, according to a published report. Read more: CBS New York

Jay Leno to Exit ‘Tonight Show,’ Jimmy Fallon in the wings

It’s the end of an era. Ending weeks of speculation, NBC confirmed today that after 22 years, Jay Leno will step down as the host of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” next spring. Jimmy Fallon, now the star of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” will take over shortly thereafter. Read more: ABC News

North Korea moves missiles, but no sign of imminent attack

North Korea has moved a missile with “considerable range” to its east coast, South Korea’s defense minister said Thursday, but he added that there are no signs that Pyongyang is preparing for a full-scale conflict. Read more: ABC New York/AP

Planes collide on JFK tarmac, no injuries

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

No one was injured this morning after two planes collided on a JFK tarmac this morning.

The Daily News reported an Air India plane hit a parked JetBlue plane around 6:20 a.m. near Terminal 4. About 15o passengers on the Air India flight had to disembark from the plane.

This is an ongoing investigation, a Port Authority spokesperson said.



Queens Morning Roundup

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 42. North wind around 5 mph becoming light and variable in the afternoon. Thursday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 37. South wind 3 to 7 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: 2nd Annual Figgy Pudding Short Play Fest

Laugh and drink with Unity Stage Company as you enjoy these eight short ho-ho-holiday plays.  Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

TSA screener busted for stealing iPads, laptops from luggage

TSA screeners are doing their holiday shopping in your luggage. Port Authority cops on Tuesday busted a crooked 32-year-old TSA screener for stealing iPads and laptops from checked baggage at JFK Airport as part of a sting into the increasing problem of sticky-fingered screeners. Read more: NY Post

Officials concerned about air quality in Rockaway homes

The air in the Rockaways may be dusty and taste dirty, but city officials say it is safe. “Just generally speaking, we haven’t seen an impact from Sandy,” said Carter Strickland, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Read more: NY1

Queens man pleads guilty in plot to bomb Manhattan religious institutions

A Queens man pleaded guilty in New York State Court to charges related to a plot to blow up Manhattan religious institutions, including the largest synagogue in the borough, the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced Tuesday. Read more: Queens Courier

Anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee arrested for allegedly entering Guatemala illegally

Software company founder John McAfee was arrested by police in Guatemala on Wednesday for entering the country illegally, hours after he said he would seek asylum in the Central American country. Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla said McAfee was detained by police at a hotel in an upscale Guatemala City neighborhood with the help of Interpol agents. Read more: Daily News

Missing Queens man with dementia last seen boarding subway

Officials are searching for a missing man with dementia who was last seen boarding a subway train in a Queens station on Tuesday afternoon. A relative says Gary Sinclair, a 63-year-old Queens resident, was with his caretaker when he managed to slip away and board the subway at 42nd Street and Broadway around 2 p.m. Tuesday. Read more: NY1

Queens volunteer fire houses raising money for Sandy damages

These everyday heroes risked their lives battling raging fires and violent floods to rescue their neighbors in Superstorm Sandy. But volunteer firefighters in Broad Channel and the Rockaways are now working out of moldy fire houses with damaged equipment and water-logged rigs. Read more: Daily News


Obama lands at JFK, tours areas hardest hit by Sandy

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

By Alexa Altman and Terence Cullen

“I’m very proud of you, New York,” said President Barack Obama. “You guys are tough. You bounce back, just as America always bounces back. The same is going to be true this time out.”

Alongside New York’s most prominent officials, Obama surveyed damage in the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.

“We are going to be here until the rebuilding is complete,” he said while touring Staten Island. “I’m going to be coming back in the future to make sure that we have followed through on that commitment.”

The president, accompanied by Senators Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, landed at JFK International Airport just after 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, November 15, where he was greeted by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Obama immediately boarded helicopter Marine One, where he aerially toured some of the damage to the Rockaway peninsula, including Breezy Point, where 111 homes burned down during the storm.

During their trip toward Staten Island, the president was briefed on the city’s current situation by Cuomo, Bloomberg, Napolitano and Donovan.

While New York is currently in recovery mode, the president said there is still plenty to be accomplished on the way to getting the city back up and running.

“Now, more specifically, we are now still in the process of recovery,” Obama said. “As you can see, as you travel around parts of Staten Island, as we flew over parts of … other parts of the city and the region that had been impacted, there is still a lot of cleanup to do.”

Over the past few weeks, aid organizations such as FEMA and the American Red Cross have been criticized for their alleged slow response time and lack of presence in badly damaged regions like Broad Channel and Howard Beach. Obama said he and his team will be working closely with these organizations and local governments to ensure victims receive the assistance they need.

“People still need emergency help. They still need heat. They still need power. They still need food. They still need shelter,” said the president. “Kids are still trying to figure out where they’re going to school. So there’s a lot of short-term, immediate stuff that has to be dealt with. And we are going to make sure that we stay here as long as people need that immediate help. That’s FEMA’s primary task.”

While on the ground in Staten Island, Obama privately met with homeowners and those filing insurance claims with the Small Business Association (SBA).

“What is your situation?” he asked one woman in the SBA tent.

“These folks are here to help, OK,” he said to another.

“During difficult times like this,” said the president near the end of his trip to New York, “we’re reminded that we’re all bound together and that we have to look out for each other. And a lot of the things that seem important, the petty differences melt away, and we focus on what binds us together, and that we as Americans are going to stand with each other in our hour of need.”

— With pool reports


Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Monday: Overcast. Fog early. High of 63. Winds from the South at 5 to 15 mph. Monday night: Overcast with a chance of rain, then rain showers after midnight. Fog overnight. Low of 52. Winds from the South at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 80%.

EVENT of the DAY: Opening Party – Geisha: The Golden Years 1870-1890

Tonight is the opening party for the exhibition Geisha: The Golden Years 1870-1890 at the Resobox Gallery in Long Island City. The  hand-colored photographs of Geisha and Maiko were used by Dr. Stanley Burns and his daughter Elizabeth to create the book, “Geisha: A Photographic History 1872-1912,” and to show the exotic nature of Japan to the West. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Rockaways homeowners still without power 13 days after Hurricane Sandy

Slow-as-molasses brass of the Long Island Power Authority failed to restore electricity to a storm-battered block of Arverne in the Rockaway Peninsula — even though it passed an electrical inspection with flying colors three days ago. Read more: New York Daily News

Cuomo to seek $30 billion in aid for storm relief

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo plans to ask the federal government for at least $30 billion in disaster aid to help New York City and other affected areas of the state recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, according to top administration officials. Read more: New York Times

Battery Tunnel reopens Monday morning but only for express buses into Manhattan

The Battery Tunnel will reopen Monday morning, but only for express buses into Manhattan, officials announced Sunday. Read more: New York Daily News

Gawkers head to NY’s storm-ravaged neighborhoods

Garbage trucks, hulking military vehicles and mud-caked cars move slowly through a Staten Island waterfront neighborhood still reeling from Superstorm Sandy’s storm surge. Then comes an outlier: a spotless SUV with three passengers peering out windows at a mangled home choked with sea grass. Read more: Wall Street Journal

Israeli pilot in JFK bust

An Israeli pilot was busted at Kennedy Airport for trying to bring a retractable baton onto a flight, officials said yesterday. Read more: New York Post

Info emerges about 2nd woman in Petraeus case

As questions swirl about the extramarital affair that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, the retired general and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, have been quiet about details of their relationship. Read more: AP


Cancelled flights strand thousands at area airports

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@PANYNJ

Hurricane Sandy has shut down New York airports forcing stranded passengers and evacuated residents to flee to nearby hotels to seek refuge.

“Our first thought, as always, is the safety of our customers and our employees,” said Rick Sacco, the general manager at the Holiday Inn Express at Kennedy Airport.

Airports do remain open, but air carriers have ceased operation until further notice, according to the Port Authority. The organization encourages travelers to not travel to the airports at all.

Delta Airlines in particular has cancelled a couple thousand flights, and have halted operations in and out of New York airports, according to Delta spokesperson Eric Torbenson. Flights are set to resume at a to-be-determined time on Tuesday.

With flights cancelled for at least Monday, October 29 at both LaGuardia and JFK International, hundreds of passengers are stranded in Queens, hoping to ride out the storm comfortably.

“We’ve activated our hurricane action plan,” said Jimmy Mitts, director of security at the Sheraton LaGuardia East. “We are totally up and running, and we have enough staff on hand.”

Members of the staff from both of the hotels are staying in rooms so they can stay off of the roads.

“We have about one half of the staff staying at the hotel as of now,” said Sacco.

Residents from the nearby Rockaways and other areas that were mandated to evacuate also headed to hotels to get out of harms’ way.

“We’re preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best,” said Ed Staniszewski, general manager at the Sheraton. “We’re fully prepared to be without power for a number of days.”

Many area hotels, including the Sheraton, have emergency generators that will kick on to accommodate guests in times of severe weather. The Sheraton’s generator can power the hotel for up to three days.

The Holiday Inn Express at JFK still has open rooms for upcoming reservations, and will hold them for as long as possible. The Sheraton LaGuardia East, however, is completely booked with airport passengers and local community residents.

“Everything is depending on what’s going on outside and in the area,” said Mitts of what security’s next move is. Their emergency plan will go into effect on a circumstantial basis.

Shuttle service for both hotels is still underway, but as the weather intensifies, it may have to be cancelled. Currently, shuttle service to local areas such as drug stores is going on at the JFK Holiday Inn.

“They’re all stuck, and we try to do the best we can and let everyone be as happy as they can be,” said Sacco.

Weekend Roundup

| brennison@queenscourier.com


Wisconsin spa shooting injures at least seven

A gunman opened fire at a Wisconsin spa today, injuring at least seven people. The area is on lockdown as authorities in Brookfield work to secure the scene, which is across the street from a shopping mall. It was not immediately clear whether a suspect had been arrested. Read more: ABC News

George McGovern, an unabashed liberal voice, dead at 90

George Stanley McGovern — a staunch liberal who served South Dakota in the U.S. Senate and House for more than two decades and who ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic Party nominee for president in 1972 — died Sunday at the age of 90, his family said. Read more: CNN

Suspect captured by cops after fatal hit-and-run of elderly Queens man

A callous driver struck and killed an elderly man who was walking on a Queens sidewalk Saturday and then got out of his car and ran away from the grisly scene, cops said. The pedestrian, 76-year-old Victor Florio, was taking a stroll along Booth Memorial Ave. near 164th St. when a 2007 Toyota Rav 4 suddenly hopped the curb about 7:45 a.m., police said. Read more: Daily News

JFK and La Guardia getting body scanners that show more cartoonlike pictures

Scanners that create creepily clear images of travelers’ naked bodies are being swapped out of big airports in favor of newer machines that show more cartoonlike pictures, the Transportation Security Administration says. TSA officials are pulling a giant scanner switcheroo — shifting the older scanners, called backscatter imagers, away from big airports to small ones. Read more: NY Post

Suspect charged with rape in Queens massage parlor

Police arrested on Long Island a man suspected of a sexual assault last week in a massage parlor in Flushing, Queens. Zhordrack Blodywon, 40, is charged with rape, robbery and criminal possession of stolen property. Read more: NY1

Growing push for ‘landmark’ tree

A landmark-worthy tree grows in . . . Queens? Grassroots preservationists aim to petition the city to add a Woodside hardwood that dates to the Revolutionary War to a list of landmarks that includes the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. Read more: NY Post

Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Wednesday: Partly cloudy. High of 61. Winds from the ESE at 5 to 10 mph. Wednesday night: Mostly cloudy in the evening, then clear. Low of 55. Winds from the SSE at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: The Platinum Band

The Platinum Band is once again performing on the Resorts World Casino New York City’s Bar 360 Stage. The band, which boasts a heavy rotation of reggae music, takes you back to an era of Bob Marley and the Wailers. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Students sickened after pepper spray is released in Queens school

One student was hospitalized, and 10 more had to be sent home, after pepper spray was discharged in a school lunchroom in South Ozone Park, Queens. Read more: CBS New York

Makeover for Queens traffic hub is underway

Pedestrian plazas and a gleaming stainless steel elevator are coming to Queens Blvd. and the Van Wyck Expressway but completion of the massive Kew Garden Interchange project is still years away. Read more: New York Daily News

Baggage handler who smuggled cocaine in planes is sentenced to life

An airline baggage handler who was convicted of trafficking millions of dollars’ worth of drugs in the bellies of commercial jets was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday, putting an emphatic stamp on a case that revealed rampant theft and corruption by some airline employees. Read more: New York Times

Union officials ask Queens district attorney for fair investigation of cop in fatal shooting of unarmed man on Grand Central Parkway

Union officals for the NYPD detective who shot an unarmed man to death on the Grand Central Parkway met Tuesday with the Queens district attorney to ask for a fair and impartial investigation. Read more: New York Daily News

NYC cabbie suspended after tossing passenger

A New York City cab driver has had his license suspended after a hearing in which he was shown on video shoving and pushing a passenger out of his cab. Read more: NBC New York

Face to face: Obama, Romney in crackling debate

An aggressive President Barack Obama accused challenger Mitt Romney of peddling a “sketchy deal” to fix the U.S. economy and playing politics with the deadly terrorist attack in Libya in a Tuesday night debate crackling with energy and emotion just three weeks before the election. Read more: AP

Unfriendly skies?

| qceditorial@queenscourier.com

It came to light last week – to our horror – that two separate groups of contracted JFK security officers filed complaints with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), citing problems with officials making employees cut corners when inspecting aircrafts and working within the terminals.

The groups claim that they are forced to perform the usually 30- to 40-minute inspections in 10; some even say they have had as little as three minutes.


According to federal mandates, airport security personnel are to inspect each plane and search for items left behind, including threatening items such as weapons, drugs or explosives. They are expected to open every overhead bin, search each row, open every tray table and search all seat-back pockets.

We don’t know about you, but when we board a plane, we hope that each and every inch has been pored over, so that the safety and security of all passengers and staff is assured.

What’s worse, according to claims, is that many security officers receive little to no training before beginning work, and are also given inadequate or malfunctioning equipment.

And aside from security within the terminals, JFK International has also experienced troubles at security checkpoints for incoming passengers. This summer, a Long Island student made it through security with a large knife in his carry-on bag en route to Terminal 4. Tracking down the passenger took airport officials 10 minutes after he had left the gate.

Additionally, this past June, the TSA closed Terminal 7 for about two hours after discovering a metal detector had malfunctioned at a security checkpoint, and that passengers had already passed through without being properly screened, as reported by the Daily News. In such a situation, procedure mandates the terminal be emptied and all passengers re-checked.

In this post-9/11 world, there are no excuses for any lapse in security.

Queens, home to both JFK and LaGuardia Airports, is like the gateway to New York – to the world – and if safety standards are lax there, it is worrisome what might happen, either on the ground or in the air.

JFK workers say cutting corners puts passengers at risk

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Things do not seem to be flying smoothly at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

In recent months, two separate groups of contracted JFK security officers have filed complaints with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), citing problems with officials making employees cut corners when inspecting aircrafts and working within the terminals, along with substandard working conditions.

The most recent complaint was filed on behalf of Global Elite Group agents who perform security for several international airlines in JFK terminals 1, 4 and 8.

“Sometimes we get rushed by the managers,” said Yonathan Verasteguy, who has worked for Global Elite for eight months, and is already sick of the conditions. “Inspecting an aircraft should take 30 to 40 minutes, but we’re given 10 minutes for most flights. I don’t think it’s safe.”

Verasteguy said that it is mandated for all airport security officers to inspect each plane and search for items left behind, including threatening items such as weapons, drugs or explosives. They are expected to open every overhead bin, search each row, open every tray table and search all seat-back pockets.

However, for many turnaround flights at JFK, employees are not permitted the proper amount of time to conduct a thorough search so as to not delay the following flight out. Once a plane lands, they sweep through the aircraft and hope it is properly prepared for the next trip.

“My heart skips a beat every time I have to spend less time than necessary inspecting a plane,” said Jeffrey Uyanik, a JFK Global security officer. “Just this August, an airline representative told me I had three minutes to complete my search. Three minutes is not enough time to search the plane. I had to skip entire rows.”

Additionally, the Air Serv Corporation at JFK, which regulates vehicles within certain terminals and reviews passenger identification, filed a complaint with the TSA claiming security officers receive little to no training before beginning work, and are also given inadequate or malfunctioning equipment.

Global Elite has experienced similar troubles, being given faulty “wands” used to detect metal. As maintenance workers board an aircraft, Global officers must confirm that they do not bring any dangerous items on board, which they do by “wanding down” the crew.

“Too often we are given broken wands that don’t detect metal. Too often, even when we complain, we don’t get a properly functioning wand for too long a period of time,” said Global agents in their official complaint. “On some occasions, managers have directly told workers to work with broken wands. In other cases, when we complain, we are given properly functioning equipment.”

Also in the complaint, officers say that Global Elite does not provide them with radios, forcing them to communicate via their personal cell phones, often in airport areas lacking service.

Global Elite Group responded in a statement saying that it has “an exemplary record of safety and security at JFK Airport,” and that it has had constructive informational sessions with its staff, and will “continue to move forward.”

Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokesperson, said they are investigating the claims of both airline security contractors. They have not yet received the complaint from Global Elite agents, but have been keeping up with the situation via local media.

Employees from Air Serv and Global were told to not speak with the media, but intolerable conditions have forced them to speak out.

The select security officers that chose to do so, who are non-unionized workers, have begun organizing with union SEIU 32BJ to improve their working conditions, wages and benefits.

Aside from security within the terminals, JFK International has also experienced troubles at the security checkpoints for incoming passengers. This summer, Fox reported an incident in which a Long Island student made it through security with a large knife in his carry-on bag, en route to Terminal 4, one base for Global Elite. At the close of Memorial Day Weekend, thousands of travelers pass through the security checkpoints, and this particular 19-year-old was on his way to Africa as part of a missionary group. Tracking down the passenger took airport officials ten minutes after he had left the screening area.

Additionally, this past June, the TSA closed Terminal 7 for about two hours after discovering a metal detector had malfunctioned at a security checkpoint, and that passengers had already passed through without being properly screened, as reported by the Daily News. In such a situation, procedure mandates the terminal be emptied and all passengers re-checked.

On Thursday, October 4, members of Global Elite, Air Serv and SEIU 32BJ came together at Kennedy’s Terminal 4 to voice their concerns. They picketed, chanted and marched to Terminal 3, holding signs conveying their troubles.

“Respect our rights” and “our voices will be heard” were some of the messages. Workers also symbolically taped their mouths closed as they marched across terminals, showing how they have been silenced by their employers.

State Senator Tony Avella attended the event, speaking out in favor of the frustrated officers. He said he was “appalled” when he heard about their working conditions, and “shocked” when he learned they were banned from talking to the media.

“This is an issue about safety and free speech,” he said. “This affects every single person that is coming to the airport, and this is a matter that must be addressed.”

Residents up in arms over JFK runway expansion

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

John F. Kennedy International Airport has some angry neighbors to the north, thanks to a proposed plan by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to extend a runway closer to a nearby residential community.

“Our question is, how big is big enough?” asked Barbara Brown, chair of the Eastern Queens Alliance, of the potential 728-foot runway expansion. At a public hearing on Thursday, October 4, hundreds of southeast Queens residents gathered in St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Springfield Gardens to voice their opposition to the Port Authority’s plan.

“This is airport sprawl,” said Brown,as planes could be heard soaring overhead.

The Port Authority, under Federal Aviation Association (FAA) guidelines, wishes to widen JFK runway 4L/22R by roughly 200 feet, and expand it to the north. This change will allow the runway to accommodate larger aircraft carrying more passengers, according to Port Authority officials. Also, officials said, JFK would potentially experience a significant reduction in flight delays.

However, Queens residents are concerned with the noise and air pollution they expect the expansion to bring, mainly to the Springfield Gardens community.

“There will be a significant impact,” said Brown. “The Port Authority slipped up, they didn’t do their diligence.”

Brown and the Eastern Queens Alliance also accused the Port Authority of not making the local community aware of the proposed change, instead warning the residents in Nassau County.

The agency advertised its $500 million plan in Newsday last spring, and allowed the Long Island community to voice its concerns, which will be considered by the FAA. However, those closest to the airport were unaware of the situation until much later, they claim.

Brian Simon, director of government relations for the Port Authority, attended Thursday’s meeting.

“I thank [Brown] for keeping us honest,” he said. “Sometimes in government, we are not perfect. We can do better.”

Simon stated they are mandated by the federal government to create this project, and noted the large economic output that could result from the expansion.

“[JFK is] an economic engine that serves this community,” he said, citing the jobs that the international airport creates.

Port Authority environment officials have also done an analysis of the area, as well as tests regarding noise pollution. Studies found that the expansion would only raise the noise level by 0.7 decibels, an amount nearly undetectable by the human ear. Thus, officials claim there would be no significant impact.

Residents responded by “boos” and shouts, not won over by the Port Authority’s arguments.

“We are open to all comments,” said Simon, who encouraged residents to contact him after the meeting with their concerns.

The local community now has until November 1 to file complaints with the Port Authority, which will be considered by the FAA and put into the plan’s final proposal.

If approved, the expansion will be complete by late 2014.