Tag Archives: Transportation Security Administration

Rep. King discuses homeland security over JFK Airport Chamber of Commerce breakfast


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

While JFK may be the “safest airport” in the country, far too many people do not take homeland security seriously enough, U.S. Rep. Peter King told an airport civic group on Wednesday.

King, speaking at a JFK Airport Chamber of Commerce breakfast, said airport workers, including Transportation Security Administration and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey personnel, have been successful in hardening the facility against terrorist attacks.

“This is the safest airport in the United States because of these people,” King said.

But, he added, many people are lax on the issue of security.

“Too many people in the U.S. do not take homeland security seriously enough,” said the 11-year congressman. “It is important that we stay aware.

“New York is the number one target [for terrorists].”

King was introduced by Tom Kelliher, president of the Chamber, as “the leader in the ongoing effort of homeland security,” an important topic to one of the nation’s busiest airports.

Raised in Sunnyside, King is the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and now chairs a subcommittee on counter-terrorism.

He is outspoken on terror and security issues.

“The reality is [some] people in this country have foreign ideology,” he said. “Al-Qaida is adaptive.”

Though the hot topic was the nation’s security, King also discussed the issue of federal funding for Superstorm Sandy victims in New York.

“We had to fight tooth and nail for funding,” he said.

He noted that there had been conflict with insurance companies but the issues have been resolved and the money is now coming through to homeowners and businesses.

“Overall,” he said, “the job is being done and districts are coming back.”

 

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Queens mother-daughter TSA officers help keep passengers safe


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Lois Haynes

Working under the same roof as Mom could make some sons and daughters anxious, but it makes Monique Smith proud.

The 29-year-old Jamaica resident shares the same job, as a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer at LaGuardia Airport, with her mother, Lois Haynes.

“I have been at TSA a little longer than my mom, but she has introduced me to a lot of people at the airport,” Smith said. “Plus, my co-workers are a lot nicer when they find out who my mother is. Sometimes they call me ‘Lois Jr.’ and I don’t mind a bit.”

Smith encouraged her mother to apply for the gig not long after she started working at the airport, about five-and-a-half years ago, according to Haynes.

“It’s funny when co-workers first learn that we’re mother/daughter,” the 49-year-old Queens Village resident said.

They once worked the same shift and at the same check point, but now have different hours and are stationed at different locations within the airport.

“It’s been a pleasure” working with her daughter, Haynes said. She is also thankful that her daughter introduced her to a job she enjoys.

As a TSA officer, Haynes work includes screening passengers and luggage, and checking travel documents. Additionally, she is involved with the recertification of officers.

“I am a people person and I also like to mentor,” Haynes said.

When she’s not at the airport, Haynes spends her free time with her daughter going to boutiques and out to eat.

“We have a very close relationship outside of the job,” Haynes said. “She’s my muse, she picks out my clothes, tells me what looks ugly.”

Though the two have different schedules, this Mother’s Day, they both have off from work.

Haynes, who also has a 15-year-old son, is not exactly sure what her family is planning for Sunday, but she “heard they are going to be making [her] a nice seafood dinner.”

 

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Pennsylvania man busted at JFK with loaded gun, metal knuckles


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of TSA

A Pennsylvania man is facing some serious prison time after he was caught at John F. Kennedy International Airport trying to board a plane with a loaded handgun and a martial arts weapon.

Richard Forti, 55 of Annville, in Central Pennsylvania, was passing through security on his way to Los Angeles Wednesday morning when he was busted with the weapons, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and District Attorney Richard Brown.

As he passed through airport security, Forti removed his vest and placed it in a bin to go on the conveyor belt to be x-rayed. It was at that point that a TSA officer saw the .32 caliber gun, which was loaded with five rounds, in the pocket of the vest, the TSA said. Forti also allegedly had a cat eye-knuckles martial arts weapon with him that showed up on the TSA x-ray machine.

Port Authority police then confiscated the weapons and arrested Forti, the TSA said.

At the time of his arrest, Forti allegedly told police “The vest is mine and I put the gun in there for protection.  Those are my knuckles.  I put them in my vest,” according to Brown.

“It is beyond comprehension why intelligent people would think that it is okay to board an airplane with a loaded gun on their person,” Brown said.

Forti is currently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on numerous charges of criminal possession of a weapon, prosecutors said.  If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

 

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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.

THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.

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.”

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Con Ed contract talks expected to resume Thursday 

Consolidated Edison workers were back outside company headquarters in Union Square Monday, a day after the utility locked out 8,500 union employees when their contract expired. Harry Farrell, President of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America, is expected to call for federal mediators to intervene to get talks started again. Talks broke down early Sunday morning with both sides saying they remain far apart on many issues. Read more: [NY1] 

TSA confiscate two BB guns, stun gun at JFK 

Transportation Security Administration officers confiscated two BB guns and a stun gun at John F. Kennedy International Airport over the weekend. Officers found the stun gun inside the checked-bag of a passenger headed to Cairo on Friday night. Read more: [NY1] 

Waste Management’s Long Island City facility to expand, move garbage by rail 

Some western Queens residents are turning their noses at a plan that they say will increase the number of foul-smelling freight trains rumbling through their neighborhood. Waste Management of New York, which operates the waste transfer station on Review Ave. in Long Island City, received state approval last month to expand the facility and more than double its daily trash handling capacity. Read more: [New York Daily News] 

Queens construction worker clings to side of building for nearly a half hour after scaffolding collapses as FDNY comes to his rescue

A Queens construction worker who was stranded balancing precariously on a sixth-floor window sill was rescued by firefighters after a scaffolding collapse Monday. Stalyn Suauzhanay was painting and doing facade work on the brick apartment building on 45th St. in Sunnyside when the suspended platform he was on suddenly gave way just before 11 a.m. Read more: [New York Daily News] 

Update: family of Astoria murder victim Danielle Thomas breaks silence on accused killer boyfriend 

The heartbroken family of a woman found brutally murdered in a Queens apartment spoke out Monday. The victim’s boyfriend was arrested on Friday and charged in her killing. Read more: [1010wins]