The Champ Takes the Ring at Port Authority Bus Terminal

By Neal Buccino, Media Relations Staff

“A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he’ll never crow. I have seen the light and I’m crowing.”  – Muhammad Ali, excerpted from “The Champ: My Year With Muhammad Ali” by author/photographer Michael Gaffney

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There is no better place for a major photo exhibit commemorating Muhammad Ali’s birthday on January 17 – the first since the Champ’s death in June 2016 – than the Port Authority Bus Terminal, according to photographer Mike Gaffney. Ali fought 10 bouts in New York City, more than anywhere else in the world.

Despite his international celebrity, Ali valued most his family’s privacy and cherished time alone with his children, Gaffney said.  As Ali’s personal photographer, Gaffney was one of the privileged few allowed inside that private world, with the result that Gaffney’s photos capture many intimate and playful moments that Ali spent with his children and (former) wife Veronica. There also are rare glimpses of The Champ training alone.

In all, Gaffney took some 8,000 photos of the world-beloved boxer, social activist and pop culture icon between 1977 and 1978. Sixty-four of these images are on display at the Port Authority’s “Gallery of the People,” an exhibition space located inside the bus terminal at street level near the Ninth Avenue entrance and south of the main ticketing plaza. The exhibit continues throughout Black History Month in February.  It is free of charge to visitors and the 232,000 weekday commuters who use the world’s busiest bus terminal.

Like Ali himself, the photos are ferocious and tender, moving and hilarious. They highlight an important year in Ali’s career and boxing history — “his tough win against Earnie Shavers; a shocking loss to Leon Spinks; and a glorious comeback victory (against Spinks) to win the Heavyweight Championship for an unprecedented third time,” according to the book.

The curated exhibit presents Ali as a multi-faceted father, fighter, comedian and celebrity. Intimate photos reveal a dejected Ali surrounded by stunned supporters following his loss to Spinks. Action shots express Ali’s brutality, his artistry in the ring and his final triumphant victory. Ever the gentle father, Ali is shown cradling his newborn daughter Laila and playing with two-year-old Hana. Ali the comedian is displayed taunting his opponents at press events.

Other images showcase his celebrity status as he meets Presidents Carter and Ford, Michael Jackson and an unabashedly star-struck Sylvester Stallone. Yet it’s the inspirational side of Ali that Gaffney most wants to share with the world: Ali the inspirer, in cities throughout America, where locals greet him with open affection and pride.

“During a pre-civil rights era, he showed himself as larger than life and beautiful in order to inspire other African-Americans,” Gaffney said recently. “In 1977 and ‘78, at the height of his fame, he worked to inspire all people. Seeing how much people adored and looked up to him, Ali once said, ‘I wish people would love everybody else as they love me.  It would be a better world.’”

“Muhammad Ali spent a lifetime giving a voice to people who needed to be heard, inspiring all people to work hard and to never give up. His message of hope remains ‘The Greatest’ gift he gave us,” said Gaffney.

 

Posted in Black History Month, Civil Rights, historic photographs, NYC, PABT, PANYNJ, Port Authority Bus Terminal, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, public art, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

Bernie Wagenblast: The Voice of Public Transportation in the Region

By Roz Hamlett, Portfolio Editor

Bernie Wagenblast is like the Siri of public transportation in the New York/New Jersey region, sort of.  Except he doesn’t live inside iphones, he lives in Cranford, NJ.  And most importantly, he never gets a snarky attitude.

When Wagenblast started out as a traffic reporter on radio, he never dreamed that one day thousands of people moving through the region’s transportation network would hear his sonorous, but disembodied voice through loudspeakers inside some of the region’s major transportation infrastructure.

The Port Authority (PA) was the first agency to discover Wagenblast’s cheerful voice. In fact, he still answers the Port Authority’s main switchboard and the PATH customer service line.  He’s a regular on AirTrain JFK and AirTrain Newark.  He’s the upbeat voice heard inside South Jersey trains and NYC subway cars.  He identifies the station and how long the wait will be between trains inside Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) stations between South Jersey and Philadelphia.  Portfolio was curious about Wagenblast and recently put a few questions to him.

First the obvious question: The surname Wagenblast is very unique.  Do you like your name?    

Answer:         In German, Wagenblast translates as a hothead who is quick to fight, which would’ve been useful to know when I was a kid.  Early in my radio career, I gave some thought to changing it because I didn’t think it sounded like a radio name.

I’m glad I didn’t though. It’s memorable.  A couple years ago, I competed in the “Name of the Year (NOTY)” contest.  But I was knocked out in the first round by Bufus Dewberry.  The 2016 NOTY winner was Pope McCorkle III and past winners have included Steele Sidebottom and Barkevious Mingo.  The competition is fierce.

Question:     You are a former PA employee.  What did you do at the agency?

Answer:        Most of my PA career was spent at TRANSCOM during its formative years.  I was very proud of what we created with TRANSCOM because nothing like it had ever been done before.  The PA took the lead in trying to get a host of agencies in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to share information on a regular basis for the first time.  It was a difficult thing to achieve, but pleasant persistence eventually won the day and now the entire region benefits.

It was created originally to enable its member agencies to share road construction information and resolve schedule conflicts. This turned into a round-the-clock control room, set up to communicate information about major traffic occurrences in the region.  Whenever a major incident happens, among the most important agencies to travelers is TRANSCOM.

Question:    Have you ever heard yourself on a public loud speaker and nudged the person next to you and identified yourself as the “Voice?”

Answer:        No.  But once when I was at Newark Liberty International Airport, I did embarrass one of my daughters.  We were riding AirTrain Newark, and as we traveled between terminals, I recall telling her: “I bet I can imitate this guy’s voice and I proceeded to say out loud the same words I was saying over the speakers. There were strangers on the train, and she became so mortified that she was ready to crawl under the seat unless I stopped.

Question:      What it’s like to be a voice-over artist?  Do you have ambitions beyond transportation?

Answer:        I love doing it because even though it’s been 20 years since I left the PA, I’ve had the opportunity to continue as part of the agency every day.  I try to keep a smile in my voice when I do the recordings because I realize that people listening to me may be stressed or confused.  In the case of airports, I may be one of the first voices they hear upon arriving here, and I want to give them a positive impression.

Posted in airports, AirTrain JFK, AirTrain Newark, EWR, Newark Liberty International Airport, NY/NJ region, NYC, PANYNJ, PATH customer service, Port Authority, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, TRANSCOM, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

New Flight Path for Port Authority’s Director of Aviation

By Alana Calmi, Media Relations Staff

When Huntley Lawrence moved with his family from London to Queens in 1969, he lived a stone’s throw from LaGuardia Airport and attended the aviation program offered at P.S. 127. Here he learned first-hand about flight at LGA and John F. Kennedy, the major international airport located a short distance from his East Elmhurst home.

Little did he know that those early lessons would lead him to one of the most prestigious aviation jobs in the United States — Director of Aviation for the Port Authority, a post that oversees the regional airport system – John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International, Stewart International, Teterboro Airport, and Atlantic City International Airport with whom the Port Authority has a management agreement.

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Huntley Lawrence in his office on the 18th floor of 4 World Trade Center

From Lawrence’s perch, he commands one of the world’s busiest airport systems that handled a record 124.2 million passengers in 2015, generated annual revenues of $2.4 billion, and spurred regional economic growth of more than $84.7 billion in economic activity.

Lawrence formally assumed the director’s seat last month, replacing Thomas Bosco, who retired from the Port Authority after more than 30 years of service to the agency.

His affinity for aviation and his connection to the Port Authority go way back. “Fortunately, when I went to high school I was able to attend ground school, courtesy of the City of New York,” said Lawrence, who noted the city allowed qualified students to use Republic Airport on Long Island. Students were able to fly and become familiar with smaller, private planes during flying lessons.

During Lawrence’s time at August Martin High School he attended core classes such as science but it varied from the traditional academic curriculum. Science classes focused on the different types of weather a pilot may face and how it affects travel. Students were also able to experience the weathers impact on flights by flying in different conditions. Shortly before graduating high school, Lawrence had passed his written pilot’s test.

Upon graduation, Lawrence landed an internship at the Port Authority. “We had a program called ‘Training with Industry’ when I was in high school and was able to do an internship in the Aviation Department at the Port Authority in 1980,” he said. “It was a really great experience. I also learned a lot about aviation planning during the internship.”

Lawrence attended Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla., which had an extensive aviation program that included flight training. Like many aviation enthusiasts, his real interest was aviation, not earning a living as a commercial pilot.

When he returned to the Port Authority full-time, he worked as an operations supervisor at Newark Liberty International Airport. “My former supervisor in aviation had told me about a program that the Port Authority was putting together. She said see this guy named Mike Massiah,” Lawrence recalled. But finding an opportunity to meet with the busy Massiah proved to be difficult.

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From left to right:  Members of the Port Authority aviation team in 2014 included Ralph Tragale, Bob Aaronson,  Thomas Bosco and Huntley Lawrence.

So Lawrence went to the Port Authority’s personnel office and waited outside until he caught Massiah in the hallway, and arranged an interview. Long story short – he was hired in July 1985 and a long and distinguished Port Authority career began. In his 31 years at the Port Authority he has also held supervisory and management roles at Teterboro Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal B, and International Arrivals at JFK.

His objective as head of aviation is to assure a high quality of performance from Port Authority employees in service to the airport’s passengers and other customers, and to help build and maintain a strong economic base for the airports.

“I think that’s what we’re about—providing these types of facilities, and ensuring a standard of quality in the services we and our partners provide,” he said. “It’s really about improving infrastructure, facilitating employment, and providing a positive economic impact.”

Posted in airport history, airports, Atlantic City International Airport, aviation, EWR, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Kennedy Airport, Kennedy International, LaGuardia Airport, New Jersey Air Transportation, Newark Liberty International Airport, NYC, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Stewart International Airport, Teterboro Airport, Uncategorized, WTC | Tagged , , , ,