Port Authority Gears Up for A New Commute

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

With May’s sunny skies finally making it to New York City, Port Authority employees are hitting the bike lanes on both sides of the Hudson River. After all, it’s National Bike to Work Month – the perfect time to kick off the agency’s new Bike-Share Benefit.

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L-R: PA bikers Andrea Cristina Ruiz, Kirsten Jones, Matthew Walker, Kevin Walkes and Alex Levi

At the May 16 benefit launch, representatives from Citi Bike and Jersey Bike helped PA employees register for discounted memberships, and New York City Department of Transportation officials outfitted 96 lucky attendees with new, properly sized helmets.

The event was organized by the PA’s very own Bicycle Working Group (BWG), a 50-member, inter-departmental group that meets every month to carry out and improve upon both the agency’s Bicycle Policy and Bicycle Master Plan.

The bicycle policy has been around since its formal adoption in 2010 by the Port Authority Board of Commissioners, and supports biking as an important and sustainable mode of travel that provides safe and convenient bicycle access at agency facilities.  The plan was updated in 2017 to reflect an upward trend across the region and the continued renovation of the World Trade Center site.

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“The Bicycle Working Group has enormous potential to be a bridge between all the departments to ensure that we are using best bicycle planning practices as we further implement the 2010 Bicycle Policy,” said the group’s co-chair, Kirsten Jones, an executive advisor to the Port Authority’s Tunnels, Bridges & Terminal group. “The 2017 Bicycle Plan outlines numerous ambitious short- and long-term goals that will improve bicycling in the region for both the public and our employees.”

Those goals include designing and building better bicycle infrastructure at the bridges, ensuring safer cycling alongside motor vehicles and pedestrians, and compiling reliable cycling data to better understand commuters’ behaviors.

To date, the group’s biggest accomplishment is the launch of the bike-share benefit. It’s a significant one, given the rise in bicycle commuting for PA employees over the last several years. In 2017, a commuter survey done by the agency’s Office of Environmental and Energy Programs found that walking and biking represented 8 percent of all PA commuter transport — a whopping 88 percent increase from 2015.

At the benefit launch event, more than 100 employees expressed interest in the bike-share discounts.

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Getting fitted for a helmet by an NYC DOT employee

“I get a lot of enjoyment and meaning from substantively collaborating with the BWG to influence positive change in the culture of alternative transportation across the bistate region,” said Alex Levi, principal architect in the Engineering Department and a BWG member.

After being fitted for a helmet, Rosina Codrington, executive business manager in the Port Authority’s Planning and Regional Development Department, said, “Now, I’m going to commit to biking a few times a week home from work.”

Jones says that the benefits of biking are countless. “When more people ride bicycles, there is less congestion, cleaner air, safer streets, fewer sick days, longer life expectancy, a better economy, and less wear and tear on the roads. Biking creates a more livable place for everyone.”

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Lights, Canvas, Action

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

It all started with the lights.

Nelson Gallardo, a Port Authority contract project manager, was working on a lighting upgrade in the Port Authority’s bridges and tunnels in 2017 when inspiration struck. It wasn’t about a new design or structure, as might be expected from someone who works in construction.

Gallardo wanted to paint the transformation of New York City, through the lens of infrastructure improvements of benefit to the environment.

Just ahead of Earth Week 2019, he unveiled his original exhibit at the Port Authority Bus Terminal’s Times Square Hall: “Into the light: behind the scenes in the fight for our planet.” The exhibit runs through the end of this week.

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Gallardo presenting his paintings at the exhibit’s opening

Gallardo drew upon his first-hand experiences in the field to convey the dedication required to convert existing structures into more energy-efficient ones. As part of the Port Authority’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, the agency has adopted a “clean dozen” set of initiatives. One of those initiatives includes installing LED lights to improve energy efficiency at the facilities, one of Gallardo’s areas of oversight.

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Each piece took about a month to complete, and Gallardo carefully chose each color and patterns to represent the environments in various employees worked.Typically, replacing structures generates a lot of waste. But for Gallardo, the replacement of light fixtures at the George Washington Bridge presented an opportunity. Using labels on the old lights that would have been discarded, Gallardo paid tribute to those who rescued others and those who died on 9/11 with the creation of a Twin Towers image.

“Through my art, I wanted to show people all the work that’s being done to save energy and improve the facilities that nobody sees,” Gallardo said.

Gallardo has had a knack for painting since his childhood in Colombia. At the age of 11, he won a gold prize at an international art competition. At 15, he was selected to participate in the Young Talented Artists program at the country’s Institute of Fine Arts. Then, as a Physics student at the University of Valle, he painted the department’s first mural.

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A sampling of Gallardo’s paintings from the exhibit

In 2002, Gallardo moved to the United States and joined the Army as a chemical biological and nuclear weapons specialist, but he didn’t forget his artistic roots. Posted in Germany, he was able to study and observe classical art like he never had before back in Colombia. Once his deployment ended, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree from Berkley College in Management and Administration.

“It really is a lot of incremental contributions — on an individual level, on a collective level and on an organizational level — that are going to enable the Port Authority to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals of 35 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2050,” said Christine Weydig, director of the agency’s Office of Energy and Environmental Programs.

For Gallardo, his own individual contribution is helping enlighten those who may miss the sustainability effort under way at facilities throughout the Port Authority.

“People drive through the bridges and tunnels and only see traffic,” he said. “But they’re not seeing what’s happening behind the orange cones and all the work that’s required.”

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Queens Artists Perfect Their Craft at LaGuardia

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

Art has always been an important part of LaGuardia’s historic Marine Air Terminal, also known as Terminal A. In the 1930’s, the largest mural commissioned by the Works Progress Administration was painted in the rotunda, where it can still be seen to this day.

Now, a portion of the terminal serves as studio space for a team of creative local artists who are continuing the legacy by participating in ArtPort Residency. The program is in its second year through a partnership between the Port Authority and the Queens Council on the Arts.

Five local Queens residents were recently chosen from a pool of more than 90 applicants to set up shop in their own 110-square-foot terminal space. Through March 2020, they will create a variety of projects representing the borough’s diversity through interaction with the thousands of passengers and employees who walk through the terminal each day.

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ArtPort 2019 residents, L-R: Linda Ganjian, Holger Keifel, Davi Leventhal, Natsuki Takauji and Haksul Lee

First up is Holger Keifel, who is transforming his space into a photo studio. He plans to work on a photo book that features portraits of and interviews with passengers.

Davi Leventhal, the second scheduled artist, will fill the area with fuxicos, a traditional Brazilian decoration created from fabric scraps. His aim is to invite visitors in so they can learn the technique and engage in thoughtful conversation.

The third artist, Linda Ganjian, plans to design and print original postcards featuring Queens landmarks, including those at LaGuardia Airport. She will cover her studio space with her designs, welcoming in travelers and encouraging them to take the postcards as souvenirs.

The duo of Haksul Lee and Natsuki Takauji will occupy the space last. They plan on creating airplane sculptures that consist of visitors’ signatures in their own languages and transcriptions of the signatures in order to portray the diversity of travelers and New York City residents.

Last year’s cohort also presented a variety of innovative projects.

At a recent event kicking off the new group of residents, Brian Soliwoda invited members of the community to plant seeds from the biodegradable ship he built, aptly named the Clipper after the historic seaplane that flew from the terminal. The seeds were inspired by memories passengers shared around plants and gardens, and they were sealed between seed paper in the sails of the ship.

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Soliwoda and LaGuardia General Manager Lysa Scully cutting the first seeds from the seed paper sails

Sherwin Banfield drew sketches of visitors walking by him, which he later turned into a bas-relief model (a type of sculpture). The model, titled “Passenger Relief,” is now hanging near the entrance to the terminal.

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Above, Banfield sketching. Below, the finished product.

Gideon Jacobs and Lexie Smith created “Landing Pages,” a collection of stories they wrote while travelers were in flight. Passengers stopped by before their planes took off, and when they landed, they received the story Jacobs and Smith had written via email, text or the website the pair designed.

Finally, Sandra Lopez-Monsalve curated interviews with passengers, ambient noises around the airport, and stories about various parts of the facility for her project, “Sounds of LaGuardia.”

“I love that I was able to do this work in an airport, where people have travel on their minds, and they’re willing to share their stories,” Soliwoda said. “Having a studio in this space was a dream come true.”

Of the current group of residents, Keifel will be working on his masterpiece in the Marine Air Terminal until the end of June, followed by Leventhal, who will take residence in the rotunda until September. Next comes Ganjian, who will work until December 2019. Finally, Lee and Takauji will build their sculptures from January through March 2020.

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Sandra Lopez-Monsalve interviewing a traveler


LaGuardia General Manager Lysa Scully said she’s been privileged to watch the ArtPort Residency unfold over its first year. “This program connects our customers with the vibrancy of the Queens arts community, and it will help us continue to transform LaGuardia Airport,” she said.

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