Tag Archives: Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

Taxi dispatchers busted for allegedly taking cash bribes at JFK


| editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Sixteen men, including seven Queens residents, have been charged with illegally taking cash bribes in a taxi-dispatching scheme at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), officials announced Wednesday.

The taxi dispatchers, who were employed by the Port Authority of New York  & New Jersey subcontractor Gateway Group One Frontline Services, were busted in an undercover operation following an anonymous tip, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

They are accused of accepting cash bribes to rig the dispatching system at JFK so taxi drivers could “basically ‘cut the line’ and get ahead,” Brown said.

At the airport, dispatchers regulate the taxis between a central holding location and the terminal pick-up area, according to the district attorney. The average wait time in the holding area is about two to three hours. When a dispatcher gives taxis a fare to nearby locations, such as Queens or Brooklyn, drivers receive a Short Haul, or “shorty,” ticket, which allows them to skip the central holding area and go directly to the terminal to pick-up passengers, Brown said.

The accused men allegedly accepted ten dollar cash payments to allow undercover cab operators to bypass long lines without waiting in the central holding area even though they did not have shorty tickets.

The sixteen accused dispatchers are currently waiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on charges of commercial bribe receiving, official misconduct and receiving unlawful gratuities, each of which is punishable by up to one year in jail, according to the district attorney.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Rookie Port Authority police officers save 71-year-old woman at LaGuardia Airport


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

Just one month out of the Port Authority Police Department Academy, Officers Lenny Guzman and William Mudry put their newly learned skills to the test while saving a life Monday.

A 71-year-old woman collapsed to the floor on the lower level of United Airlines in the Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia Airport around 2:10 p.m. on Feb. 10, according to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.  She didn’t have a pulse and was not breathing. Guzman and Mudry responded to the scene and began performing CPR.

The officers then used an automated external defibrillator, to which the victim responded to after a second application. She was then transported to Elmhurst Hospital, where she is currently recovering, the Port Authority said.

“The equipment and training used by these officers today illustrate the value of both to the traveling public,” said Joe Pentangelo, a Port Authority spokesperson.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Port Authority orders airlines to raise wages, give paid holiday to airport workers


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ File Photo

Airport workers have won a battle for justice.

Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Director Patrick Foye has ordered the CEOs of Delta, JetBlue, American and United airlines to immediately raise wages and make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday for the 8,000 contracted workers at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports.

Foye sent a letter to the four CEOs telling them to grant an immediate $1 an hour raise to workers making $9 or less, recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday and work towards “providing an improved wage and benefits package to the thousands of hard-working men and women at the airports.”

The announcement comes a week after close to 1,000 workers, elected officials and clergy members blocked a bridge leading to LaGuardia Airport on Martin Luther King Jr. Day during an act of civil disobedience demanding “economic justice.”

“Pat Foye’s letter is a promising step forward and marks the first real progress we have made in lifting thousands of contracted airport workers out of poverty,” said Hector Figueroa, president of SEIU 32 BJ, a union representing most of the airport workers. “We have gotten to this point due to the courage of the contracted airport workers and their willingness to take action – including being arrested for civil disobedience at LaGuardia Airport on MLK Day along with Congressmember Charles Rangel and many others.”

During the day of civil disobedience, more than 30 people were arrested, including city and state elected officials, and workers.

“It’s good that someone is finally listening to us and responding,” said Wendy Arellano, a LaGuardia Airport cabin cleaner. “This is a good plan. It’ll be better when we have good benefits, security and the peace of mind that a good contract gives you. But, for now, getting us up to 10 dollars and 10 cents is a real start.”

Figueroa said that the work will still continue to “bring contracted airport workers the dignity and respect they deserve,” and also help these workers get out of the path to poverty and succeed in gaining economic justice.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

32 arrested during civil disobedience at LaGuardia Airport as workers call for better treatment


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Katelyn Di Salvo

BY KATELYN DI SALVO

Wendy Arellano, a single mother of two from Corona, holds three jobs to try to make it through the months. She makes $8 an hour working at LaGuardia Airport and has now stood up to make her voice heard.

Arellano, together with close to 1,000 other airport employees, local elected officials and community leaders gathered on Martin Luther King Day at LaGuardia Airport to demand better rights and benefits for airport workers and express the struggle of bringing “dignity, fairness and economic justice to the contracted employees.”

In December, workers presented the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, with petitions signed by more than 2,000 workers at LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark airports demanding Martin Luther King Day 2014 as a paid holiday. When they did not hear back from the Port Authority the workers and many people involved in the SEIU 32 BJ, a union representing most of the airport workers, they decided to organize Monday’s civil disobedience.

The rally opened with a prayer, and workers shared the stage to tell their stories and hardships.

“Personally I think it’s sad, I work three jobs to get through the months and even years, I don’t think what I make is enough for anyone to get by, and I hope this has gotten to the ears of the Port Authority,” Arellano said.

Juan Chapman who also works for LaGuardia Airport, shared his story as a security guard making $8 an hour and shouted many of his co-workers make less plus zero benefits.

“When people ask me how I live in New York on that salary I don’t have an answer, because there is no way someone can survive making $8 or less an hour,” he said.

Andrew Lloyd, a cabin cleaner at JFK International Airport shared his feelings of anger.

“I have a full time job, and I am on public assistance,” said Lloyd. “I find that to be ridiculous that I am working so hard, working overtime, and I still need public assistance, I have no health insurance, no sick days, no paid vacation days and I’m here to say I’m tired, we need respect.”

Many federal, state and local elected officials and clergy members also joined the rally standing side by side with workers.

“We have to make certain that there is a livable wage for people, no one should be one pay check away from homelessness,” said Congressmember Charles Rangel, who took the stage in support.

Rangel also said he is confident that Mayor Bill de Blasio, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and President Barack Obama will bring equality to these workers.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also announced her support of the fight for equality among workers.

“The thousands of New York area airport workers who have no health insurance, paid sick leave or the right to organize deserve better for their tireless work,” Mark-Viverito said. “Millions of New Yorkers pass through our airports every year and it’s the hard work and dedication of the workers who help make that possible. It’s time to take care of the workers who help New York City maintain its position as an international gateway.”

After the speeches, Hector Figueroa, President of SEIU 32 BJ, led the march to the 94th Street and Ditmars Boulevard bridge leading to LaGuardia Airport.

“We are here to honor Dr. King, and what better way to celebrate his legacy than doing the work of justice for workers that he carried on until he gave his life,” said Figueroa.

As workers marched through the streets they chanted “MLK is our day” as police surrounded them and warned them to clear the streets. Workers and members of SEIU 32 BJ sat down on the street in the middle of the bridge to make their statement clear.

Police then started arresting various people who would not clear the streets, ultimately arresting 32 people including local councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer, Daneek Miller and Ruben Wills.

Those arrested were taken to the 115th Precinct, given summonses and released later in the day.

The workers and members of SEIU 32 BJ said they will not stop until “they get respect and equality.”

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey did not respond to request for comment as of press time.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Livery cab driver arrested for JFK Airport stabbing


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy the Port Authority of NY & NJ

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO

A Flushing man has been arrested for a stabbing at  John F. Kennedy International Airport Friday after getting involved in a dispute with another man.

The incident began outside of Terminal 8 around 4:45 p.m., then spilled into a parking lot, where one of the men stabbed the other above the left eye, according to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

Port Authority Police detectives arrested livery cab driver Guang Zheng, 50, at 10 p.m. in Flushing after he drove off in a 2007 bronze Acura, said Port Authority of New York & New Jersey spokesperson Joe Pentangelo. Zheng was charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon

Zheng was also arrested by the Port Authority Police last month for operating an illegal livery cab at JFK Airport, according to Pentangelo.

The stabbing victim, who was transported to Jamaica Hospital after the incident, suffered non life-threatening injuries, said the spokesperson.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Cuomo veto fast-tracks aircraft noise studies


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo shut down a Senate bill last week and instead demanded the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey conduct a noise study and establish a community roundtable.

The governor vetoed a two-state bill last Wednesday that would have required the authority to determine the effects of aircraft noise with a one-time noise and land use compatibility study at all five Port Authority airports.

The legislation, passed by the New York State Legislature, would have needed approval from both Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Cuomo’s veto bypasses the need for New Jersey’s companion legislation and directs the Port Authority to meet with the community and conduct noise studies at LaGuardia and JFK Airports.

“I recognize that aircraft noise has been a concern for residents of Queens County and Nassau County,” Cuomo wrote in his veto note.

The push for noise control comes after the Federal Aviation Administration approved a new flight pattern last December that brought on a barrage of low-flying planes over parts of northeast Queens.

“Residents living among the highest air traffic in the country should have every opportunity to present their views to the appropriate authorities and a vehicle to gather information and hold people accountable,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Police investigating machine gun found at JFK Airport


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Police are trying to figure out how a machine gun ended up inside a ceiling at JFK Airport.

A contractor discovered the weapon while working in a non-passenger area of Terminal 1 around 10 a.m. Thursday, said a Port Authority of New York & New Jersey spokesperson.

The Mac-11 subcompact machine pistol was hidden in a plastic box inside the ceiling of a locked office closet.

There was no ammunition found in or around the weapon.

Port Authority police are trying to determine if it’s a functioning gun and from where it came.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

New hotel adds to downtown Jamaica development


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of GJDC

Downtown Jamaica development is continuing to climb – 24 stories up– with a new, 210-room hotel.

The hotel will be built at 93-43 Sutphin Boulevard, across the street from the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road station, the E and J subway lines and the John F. Kennedy International Airport AirTrain.

The $35 million project is another addition in the efforts to develop downtown Jamaica.

“No other neighborhood in New York offers the convenience of a wide array of commercial and retail outlets, combined with subways, the Long Island Rail Road, buses and the AirTrain providing quick and easy access to [the] airport just a 10-minute ride away,” said Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC).

GJDC owns a portion of the site with the financial support of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Another portion is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The MTA’s Finance Committee and the full board both approved of the hotel proposal last week.

The hotel, complete with a full-service restaurant and ground floor retail space, will be built and managed by Able Management Group, a Long Island-based developer. Able Hotels has agreed to pay $4.5 million to purchase the entire property.

“The location is well-suited for a hotel,” said Viral Patel, Able Hotels CEO. “We look forward to successful completion of the project and becoming part of the downtown Jamaica business community.”
Patel also said the group is “excited about this project and furthering the vision set forth for downtown Jamaica by GJDC.”

Legal steps will be taken to finalize the contract with Able Hotel, said a GJDC spokesperson. If all goes well, construction is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2014.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Board votes to write Cuomo over plane noise


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Community Board 11 voted unanimously on a resolution to support a bill that would require the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to conduct a noise study after the Federal Aviation Administration approved a new flight pattern over the area last year.

The bill would determine the effects of aircraft noise on Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and New Jersey residents and would require the Port Authority to hold biennial public hearings.

It has already passed the New York State Legislature and has been introduced in the New Jersey State Senate. The legislation needs approval from both state governors and would require the bi-state authority to submit their findings to both state legislatures.

Community Board 11 Chair Jerry Iannece said he would begin drafting a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo soon.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

JFK AirTrain to partially shut down from September 7 through mid-October


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

JFK International Airport’s AirTrain service will be partially shut down from September 7 through mid-October.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ) will provide a free bus fleet from the AirTrain’s Jamaica and Howard Beach rail stations to Federal Circle for transfer to buses and terminals.

Customer Care representatives will then help guide travelers to their destinations.

The 10-year-old AirTrain line is set to get a “system-wide overhaul” which will replace track switches, the system’s operational software and train control equipment, according to PANYNJ.

PANYNJ additionally said September is one of the airport’s lighter travel months, and doing the work during this time will ideally minimize any traveler inconvenience.

For a tentative schedule of the shut down period and any updates, visit panynj.gov/airports/jfk-airtrain.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Op-Ed: More airport terminal gates = More Queens jobs


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY SETH BORNSTEIN

In late May, Delta Airlines officially opened nine more gates at JFK’s Terminal 4. This is great news for the borough of Queens and our on-going efforts to create, retain and attract jobs.

Here at the Queens Economic Development Corporation, where I serve as executive director, we offer numerous business- services programs that provide counseling; train people to get proper licenses and permits; coordinate commercial revitalization programs to upgrade our commercial neighborhoods; operate the Entrepreneur Space, a business incubator for small food businesses; and run the Queens Tourism Council, which promotes our cultural and recreational venues.

However, the most overlooked economic development program in Queens is not offered by my office. Rather, that program consists of our two Queens airports: LaGuardia and JFK.

The two airports are the unsung heroes of job creation and retention in Queens — with over 50 percent of airport employees being borough residents. That’s why so many of us know someone connected to the airports — whether it’s a friend who is a gate agent, a relative who works at a hotel or a neighbor who runs a catering company that supplies an airline.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which operates LGA, JFK, Newark and two additional regional airports, generates close to 500,000 jobs, $25.6 billion in wages and $65 billion in total economic activity. In Queens, LaGuardia generates over 100,000 jobs, about $5 billion in wages and almost $14 billion in total economic activity. JFK generates more than twice the number of jobs and wages as LGA — thanks to the large cargo presence, with a total of over $30 billion in economic activity.

The simple fact is that more gates at JFK means more jobs for Queens. The Port Authority estimates that for every 1 million passengers the airports serve, 4,100 jobs are created annually in the region. These are direct airport jobs as well as jobs in the myriad of businesses in and around the airport, including restaurants, florist shops, car rentals, gas stations, uniform manufacturers and retail establishments, as well as the tourism industry. And the people of Queens have benefited from this more than any other county.

Additionally, the Port Authority awards hundreds of contracts every year to New York-based firms for work at LGA and JFK. Last year alone totaled $68.5 million. Since the implementation of the Queens Air Service Development Office, which was founded at the QEDC over 25 years ago, the borough has been awarded nearly 7,000 contracts, totaling approximately $1.1 billion to Queens-based operations. Organizations such as All Lock and Glass Service Inc. of Long Island City, Glenridge Fabrications of Ridgewood, Solar Insulation Company Inc. of Maspeth and Capital Contractors Inc. of Douglaston. In addition, many small and minority-owned businesses have taken advantage of the Air Services Office.

Unfortunately, the future of this highly successful airport jobs program is in jeopardy. This is because our region’s airports are facing severe capacity limitations that will only get worse in the coming decades.

A critical component of the effort to increase airport capacity is the implementation of technological advances needed to bring our airspace into the 21st century. This is why QEDC was a founding member of the National Coalition to Advance NextGen. NextGen is a complete overhaul of the national airspace system, from the air traffic control system to its airports, using 21st-century, satellitebased technologies, operational improvements and new procedures. The system includes never-before-attempted innovations designed to ensure future safety, capacity and environmental goals.

Portions of NextGen are already in place or being tested around the country, including in New York. Working together, New York area airports and airlines including United and jetBlue, have initiated improvements that permit some flights to fly more precise, direct paths that preserve safety, save time, save fuel and lower emissions. These changes will help ease delays and cancellations, which will in turn ensure that LGA and JFK continue to serve as engines for job growth for Queens and all of New York City.

Seth Bornstein is executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation

 

 

LaGuardia Airport to get $3.6 billion makeover


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

LGA

LaGuardia Airport’s $3.6 billion facelift is getting ready for its closeup.

The terminal, built in 1964 and designed to hold eight million passengers, is set to undergo a series of developments over the next six to 10 years. According to Thomas Bosco, LaGuardia Airport’s general manager, 11 million people travel through the airport each year, and estimates that by 2030, the number will reach 17.5 million passengers.

“[The terminal] is over 50 years old. It’s beyond its useful life,” said Bosco. “It’s virtually obsolete in every functional area.”

The main developments will occur mostly on the aeronautic side, pushing the terminal considerably closer to the Grand Central Parkway to accommodate larger capacity aircraft. Currently, the 35 gate terminal houses DC-9 planes which require towing by ground vehicles to go from the runway to the gate.

LaGuardia Airport accommodates about 1,150 planes daily – roughly a thousand fewer crafts than land at JFK Airport every 24 hours. While Bosco said the expansion will not increase turnaround due to federal regulation caps at 75 flights per hour, upgrading to larger aircraft will accommodate the airport’s growth in the number of passengers. The larger planes are quieter, burn cleaner fuel and emit fewer emissions and decrease the average number of delayed flights – providing what Bosco believes is a more ecologically friendly environment.

“You’re not stopping, you’re not using ground support vehicles and you’re not blocking other planes as they’re trying to leave,” he said.

According to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, an external contractor will be hired to conduct an environmental assessment, ensuring the expansion will not harm local ecosystems or cause mass amounts of pollution. The agency will examine factors such as noise, hazardous materials, wetlands and water and air quality. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not be consulted as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the lead agency handling the development.

The LaGuardia Airport development is also slated to create much-needed permanent jobs. According to Bosco, for every one million passengers, the FAA’s Regional Air Service Demand study cited an increase in 4,100 jobs and $4 billion in annual economic activity. The airport executive estimates there will also be a boom in the number temporary construction jobs, somewhere in the thousands.

Bosco said construction on the main terminal will begin in the fall of 2014 and last for the next six to 10 years. Regardless of the development, Bosco said flights will not be moved to other city airports and the transit hub is expected to remain fully operational.

“The challenge here is to do open heart surgery on the marathon runner while she’s running a marathon,” said Bosco. “We’ve got to build an entire new terminal of 35 gates while we’re operating the existing terminal with 35 gates, and that’s the challenge – but we think we’re up to the task.”

According to a spokesperson from the Port Authority, the project’s multibillion-dollar cost will be carried by a combination of Port Authority sale of Bonds, a $4.50 passenger facility charge tagged on to every airline ticket, and a possible partnership with a private company, yet to be determined.

Avatars coming to New York airports to aid fliers


| sLieberman@queenscourier.com

AVAACIFullw

Her name is AVA, and soon she will guide you through New York’s airports. She is a hard worker, requires no breaks, is never sick, and is completely content distributing the same information over and over again for 24 hours, seven days a week.

AVA is an avatar — a 2D video image of a woman on a screen.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has recently purchased three prototypes of these avatars, produced by airportONE.com of Airus Media for a six-month trial period. Each one costs $180,000.

This initiative hopes to perfect future air travel and provide a solution to airport traffic. These avatars will be virtual representatives, programmed on a motion-activated loop to give you instructions on where to pick up your bags, where to catch your flight, and how to be fully prepared to efficiently go through security.

L. Patrick Bienvenu, Chief Operations Officer at Airus Media, said that people typically don’t pay attention to regular signs.

“They will pay attention to an avatar because she is so new,” said Bienvenu. “Also, the avatar can provide a consistent and clear message where a human may not.”

Newark Liberty International Airport has already unveiled one of its avatars, while LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International are set to begin their trial run of the virtual assistants in early July.

These additions are part of a bigger movement that the Port Authority has begun to revamp New York City’s airports. This effort includes the $3.6 billion project to turn LaGuardia’s Central Terminal Building, opened in 1964, into a 21st century terminal. The Port Authority will also be increasing its Customer Care Representative force by 20 percent.

“The Port Authority is seeking novel as well as traditional ways to improve customer service,” said Ron Marsico, a Port Authority spokesperson. “The avatars will supplement the ‘human touch.’”

In terms of AVA’s future, “The sky’s the limit,” says Bienvenu, the avatar’s designer.

“In the future AVA will be able to respond to basic questions,” he said. “Think of ‘SIRI,’ the technology is there.”

For now, AVA is motion activated and begins her instructional loop when approached. When no one is directly in front of her she stands in slight motion, “Just so you know she’s alive.”