Special Delivery at the Lincoln Tunnel

By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff

Like thousands of travelers who use the Lincoln Tunnel each morning, baby Sailakshmi got tired of sitting in traffic.  So, during Monday’s morning rush hour, she decided to come into the world before she could make it to the hospital.

The newborn was delivered by a team of quick-thinking Port Authority police on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel just outside the toll plaza – the eighth time in seven years that Port Authority police officers have been unexpectedly thrust into the roles of midwives at Port Authority facilities.

When the officers arrived at 7:28 a.m., they found the mother, Sathya Priya Senthik, 34, of Jersey City, in the rear of the Uber vehicle that had been heading to a hospital in Manhattan when the baby girl decided she couldn’t wait. Port Authority Police Officers Catherine Conant, Krystal Armenti and Dana Fuller leaped into action.

“The mom was screaming, and that meant the baby was coming out,” Officer Fuller said. “We were ready.”

The officers then proceeded to deliver the baby girl in the back of the car. Officers Conant and Armenti managed to clamp the umbilical cord and then let the baby’s father, Karthik Lakshmanan, cut it. Mother, father and baby were transported to Hoboken University Medical Center.


Despite the celebrity of being born outside one of the country’s most famous crossings, the baby’s parents chose not to name her Lincoln. Instead, they named her after the Hindu goddess of wealth.  She weighed in at 6 pounds, 3 ounces.

Baby Sailakshmi joins a growing list of ‘special deliveries’ handled by the PAPD at Port Authority facilities in recent years, including births at the World Trade Center in 2015 and 2016, at the George Washington Bridge in 2014, the Holland Tunnel in 2012 and 2013, and at the Lincoln Tunnel in 2011 and 2015.

For Officer Conant, it wasn’t the first time she’s been in this position. She previously was involved in one of the Holland Tunnel deliveries.

“I couldn’t have worked with better people to help deliver a baby in this situation,” she said, describing Monday’s delivery as “perfect.”

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Posted in Lincoln Tunnel, PAPD, Uncategorized

Volunteers Extend a Helping Hand at JFK, Newark Liberty

By Cheryl Albiez, Media Relations Staff

Mel M.2017

JFK airport volunteer Mel Manheimer

At the age of 92, U.S. Army veteran Mel Manheimer no longer serves his country on active duty. But service is still an essential part of his life, as the last nine years as a volunteer for Travelers Aid assisting passengers in need at John F. Kennedy International Airport will attest.

“Volunteering [at the airport] adds years to your life. You can’t get a better position,” he said.

The same goes for Tony Scimeca, who retired after 45 years as an aircraft mechanic for TWA but couldn’t get the airport environment out of his blood. He, too, is a volunteer working with Travelers Aid at JFK, assisting global and domestic travelers who need help finding transportation or information on their flight, or buying coffee and a muffin for a stranded passenger.

Tony S. 2018.

JFK airport volunteer Tony Scimeca

“I get great satisfaction hearing someone say ’thank you.’ That’s something you don’t get staying at home watching T.V.!” he said.

Nearly 150 volunteers staff JFK and Newark Liberty International Airport are part of Travelers Aid International, exemplifying the spirit of giving, and helping the Port Authority meet its commitment to provide customer-centric initiatives that improve the travel experience. Volunteers come from various backgrounds, including retired airport and aviation veterans such as former Newark Liberty General Manager Richard Heslin.

Traveling through the two international airports, a warm smile from someone in the organization’s distinctive blue blazer can provide an unexpected uplift for travelers in need of guidance or reassurance. These friendly faces help make an often difficult travel experience much easier.  At LaGuardia Airport, volunteers work with Big Apple Greeter to assist customers.

For all volunteers, the payment is hugs, smiles and heartfelt thanks. Their concern for the individual traveler is heartfelt, too.

“When someone in flip flops and an oversized backpack approaches me looking for transportation to New York, I often ask what kind of accommodations they are looking for and provide them with the most economical means of getting there,” said Michael Guarnaccio, a retired HR specialist of 38 years who volunteers at Newark Liberty.  “I even carry a change purse for the $1.60 fare to help them get on the NJ Transit bus to Penn Station.”


Newark Liberty volunteers Michael Guarnaccio, Kayoung Song and Tyrone Laval


Volunteers Guarnaccio and Laval both carry change for passengers in need.

Guarnaccio has spent most of his life volunteering: at his church, at senior housing, his children’s baseball team, for a crisis communications hotline and – for the last four years – at Newark Liberty.  “Helping people gives me chills,” he said. “I just love being around and helping others.”

For some volunteers, knowing when travelers require assistance is almost intuitive. Tyrone Laval has been with the program for six years.  An avid traveler, volunteering his time at the airport seemed like the perfect fit for him.

“When I approach someone asking if they need assistance, they often ask ‘how do you know I need help?’” Laval said with a smile. “I’ve been a teacher for 40 years, I recognize the blank stare.” For Laval, it’s a rewarding experience that has influenced others in his life to do well, including friends from Baltimore who now volunteer services at their airport.

Kayoung Song joined  the Travelers Aid program as an exchange student from South Korea, through the government’s Work English Study Travel (WEST) program. Song, who has an infectious smile, said that “English is not my first language, and I like meeting people who speak different languages and have different accents.”

“I am proud to be one of the first people they see when they arrive here,” she said. “They are not familiar with the area and I understand their situation, so I do my best to find a solution for them.”

Interested in volunteering at JFK or Newark Liberty?

Volunteers are at the heart of Travelers Aid’s work at airports, bus and train stations. Last year, nearly 2,100 Travelers Aid volunteers assisted more than 9 million people at 24 transportation centers on 3 continents.

To volunteer or for additional information, please call Travelers Aid JFK at (718) 656-4870 or Travelers Aid Newark at (973) 623-5052.

Or to become a volunteer with Big Apple Greeter at LaGuardia Airport, visit https://bigapplegreeter.org/volunteer/ or call 212-669-7308

Posted in air travel, airport terminals, airports, aviation, aviation geeks, customer service, EWR, international travel, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Kennedy Airport, Kennedy International, National Volunteers Week, New York, Newark Liberty International Airport, NY/NJ region, NYC, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Port Authority of NY/NJ, public transportation, Travelers Aid, Travelers Aid International, Uncategorized, volunteers | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

GWB Painters: Working with Nerves of Steel

By Rudy King, Media Relations Staff

The George Washington Bridge is one of the crown jewels of American infrastructure, tons of steel and concrete topping out at more than 600 feet high. To keep the world’s busiest bridge painted and protected from the elements, GWB painters need to be as much daredevils as they are skilled workers.

The first requirement is having nerves of steel. Painting columns and arches while suspended under the bridge makes it a job that’s not for everyone — especially at dizzying heights with 14 lanes of car traffic buzzing below.

“This is nothing you’ve ever done on this scope before,” said Todd Whitehill, who recently retired as a bridge painting supervisor after 25 years. “Even if you’ve done tree work or worked in aviation, nothing prepares you to climb steel 600 feet in the air.”

Bridge painters have been at it since the GWB opened in 1931, working as part of the Port Authority Engineering Department. The work entails painting, varnishing and waterproofing all bridge surfaces and structures, and keeping corrosion in check.

To qualify for the job, candidates must pass a rigorous series of written and physical tests, including three on-site challenges – climbing to the top of the bridge, walking the six-inch beam for approximately 90 feet across, and overcoming other structural challenges. Walking the steel at this height, Whitehill said, is a critical requirement.

“If you don’t pass the height tests, there’s no reason to continue the exam because we can’t teach walking the steel at this height,” Whitehill said. “It’s not something you’re bad at today and good at tomorrow.

The views are majestic: north up the Palisades, particularly in the fall when it’s awash in autumn colors, and south along the majesty of the city skyline. But paying attention is critical. More than 70 percent of those hired stay on the job and make it a career. They must requalify periodically, with additional training requirements for scaffold and ladder navigation, handling hazardous materials, lead abatement training, operation of various aerial lifts, among other things.

Not everyone who aspires to become part of the GWB painting crew is equipped for the job. “Either you have it, or you don’t. It’s like American Idol – with gravity,” Whitehill said.

Posted in George Washington Bridge, GWB, Uncategorized