At Home, PA Parents Live a Daily Work/Life Balancing Act

By Cheryl Albiez, Media Relations Staff

As the world copes with the COVID-19 pandemic and weathers a new reality, the concept of work/life balance has taken on a whole new meaning.

For Port Authority parents, their routines over the past two weeks (or longer) have been an intensive, work-in-progress balancing act — employee, parent, caregiver and teacher operating all day under one roof, while working collectively to meet the agency’s mission to keep the region moving.

Sometimes, keeping a couple of kids moving and active under such circumstances is challenging enough.

Port Authority Parents Working Together (PAPWT), an agency Employee Business Resource Group, was established to bring parents together to pool resources, share stories, offer advice, and talk about achieving that work/life balance. That feeling of working together has never been more critical.

Revising routines and schedules to occupy children while mom or dad are trying to find a quiet place for a teleconference can be a daily challenge. Port Authority parents also are using online tools to stay connected with grandparents and other loved ones, who virtually assist with homework and child care.

“Keeping a schedule must be adjusted on the fly, based on work calls, unscheduled time-outs (kids and parents), weather, snacks, and a variety of random issues that may arise,” said Allison Voetsch, a Port Authority attorney and PAPWT member.

PAPWT member and PA program Manager Andrew Fuller connects his children and their grandparents via Skype. “It keeps the kids happy, it makes the grandparents happy and they can keep an eye on the kids by video when you’re busy,” he said. With the shortages of bread at grocery stores, Fuller and his 9-year old son are using a bread machine to make their own, “and we just made our first batch of cinnamon raisin bread.”

The PAPWT offers helpful advice not only for its own members, but for colleagues throughout the Port Authority. Here’s five tips:

Find a realistic schedule for you and the child(ren).  Revising routines and schedules to occupy children while trying to find a quiet place for a teleconference can be a daily challenge. Aim to schedule the most engaging/reliable activities for the kids to be on their own during the time parents need to be most productive on the job.

Stay connected. Take advantage of available apps and tools to connect with friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, babysitters, teachers who can also (virtually) assist with homework, child care, read stories or to just entertain them for decent chunk of time. In Voetsch’s case, her daughter and her mother spend up to half an hour a day “face to face” via phone doing a “writing workshop.”

There’s also a wide array of online educational resources, many of them free, to take advantage of that will both occupy and educate your children at the same time – from kids-themed yoga on YouTube, engaging podcasts, interactive adventures to online story telling.

When possible, “disconnect” – and de-stress. Much easier said than done but going for walks or bike rides, taking breaks with the kids, especially when the weather’s nice, are simple yet effective ways to pass the time.  Simply put, find time in the busy day to dial down work and dial up quality time with the family.

Create a dedicated workspace. If you have the ability, set aside some space something that allows for greater productivity and to truly concentrate on important work responsibilities when necessary. This is essential. This could be a room or a corner, or even an outdoor space for certain calls.

Managing anxieties during COVID-19. You know your kid(s) best in terms of how well they can process what is happening, but don’t shy away from explaining things they may be curious about, and actively ask if they have questions about the situation to see where their own anxieties may lay.

This month, PAPWT is hosting a virtual brown bag lunch with a licensed clinical social worker who will address how to manage any anxieties generated by the COVID-19.  Members also swapping articles as to how to educate children about what is happening in the world. Others are sharing fun activities and links to educational resources to keep their kids occupied as parents plug away with work, including a way to nurture a child’s artistic expression (link here) or find free resources for activities kids complete with schedule templates, book recommendations, and webinars (link here).

Additional helpful resources:

  • Day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking, and growing (link here).
  • How to Make Working from Home Work for You (link here).
  • How to homeschool during the coronavirus crisis with free resources (link here).
  • Open to all: Live story time with a Brooklyn public library (link here).
  • Teaching Remotely for Kids K-12 (link here).
  • Penguin Kids live story time every week day at 11am (link here).
  • A useful tool for time management, Pomodoro Tracker, a productivity app designed for work and study (link here).
  • Resources for Families During the Coronavirus Pandemic (link here).

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Posted in Employee Resource Groups, Port Authority, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Port Authority of NY/NJ, Portfolio, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

To Be Frank, This Chief is Top of the Line

By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff

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It was during her early years patrolling the Port Authority Bus Terminal that Gloria Frank fell in love with police work, beginning a career that would lead her to the top echelons of the Port Authority Police Department.

On patrol at the terminal in 1999, then-Police Officer Frank had committed to memory the description of a man wanted for rape. It led to her noticing the man outside the terminal and putting him under arrest. Later, she found out the suspect was wanted for multiple rapes, and today he’s serving a 50-year sentence.

From those formative days and accomplishments at the bus terminal, the PAPD veteran now is Assistant Chief Frank, overseeing the Port Authority airports, the New Jersey Marine Terminal and the Bayonne Cruise Terminal.

“This position has presented new challenges on a daily basis, and I love a challenge,” Frank said. “Being one of the first African-American woman in this position has not only brought me satisfaction but soulful pride. I get to share my gifts and inspire every other African-American to show that they too can succeed.”

Police work wasn’t something she dreamed about growing up. “Never thought of being a cop in this whole wide world,” Frank said. “Never, ever thought about it.”

Early on, she wanted to be a nurse, like her mother.  But she started her professional career as a case worker with the New York City Department of Child Protective Services before becoming a New York City probation officer. Her path was turning toward law enforcement; she joined the PAPD in 1998.

Frank has served in a variety of assignments since, including stints at the George Washington Bridge, World Trade Center, and PATH, in addition to her tours of the airports and bus terminals. Her leadership ascent was steady. She was promoted to sergeant in 2005 and became a lieutenant in 2008, landing an assignment as tour commander at the World Trade Center (WTC). In 2012, she earned a promotion to inspector and a year later was named an assistant chief.

Her calling card is skilled management, coupled with innovative thinking. Frank is credited with establishing the first active shooter full-scale exercises at Port Authority airports, followed by the establishment of department-wide protocols. She pioneered the Mass Electronic Notification System, which alerts the PAPD’s mutual aid partners with initial and vital information, directing necessary resources to manage emergency incidents.

“Chief Frank serves as a role model for all women and men in law enforcement,” said Port Authority Chief Security Officer John Bilich. “She has led the charge for numerous critical quality of life initiatives at our airports that has made travel safer for millions of our customers.”

“After 22 years, the chief continues to bring unique perspectives to the job every day,” said PAPD Superintendent Edward Cetnar.

Frank is equally proud of her Caribbean heritage. Her mother was a nurse, and she was very close to her father, a seaport executive in Grenada. “My parents are who I am today,” she said. She visits Grenada every chance she gets.

During her free time, Frank enjoys watching Disney and reading books with her daughter Gabriella (who she calls Gigi). “Perhaps the most important accomplishment, assignment and responsibility is being a mother to a beautiful three-and-half-year-old daughter,” she said.

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Posted in Uncategorized

At Newark Airport, Operations Are at the Center

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

Mondays are usually a quiet night of the week at Newark Liberty International Airport. But this week Tom Bock, Manager of Airport Operations, pointed to the roadways (no traffic) to the parking lots (mostly empty) to the runways behind the terminals, where only a few planes stood.

“This is the emptiest we’ve seen it,” Bock remarked, looking at a live feed Monday night from the Airport Operations Center (AOC).

Even with the roadways and runways looking emptier than usual, however, Newark’s AOC was operating full speed ahead – and with a cacophony of sound. The phones were ringing off the hook. Staff were chattering about the best ways to answer incoming customer inquiries on Twitter. Computers were dinging with new emails. And in the background, the dim voice of a news anchor was keeping the room updated on the latest coronavirus news.

“On a normal day, the phone rings about once every 15 minutes, and we’ll see about 60-80 tweets. Today, the phone is ringing non-stop, and we’ve seen about 230 tweets so far,” said AOC Assistant Manager Steve Swain. “But this staff knows what they’re doing. They’re the best of the best.”

Shatoya Felder, an airport customer experience specialist, counted her call logs to show the sheer volume she was managing. “The most common question we’re getting today is, ‘is the airport closed?’” Newark Airport, she informed many of the callers, was still operating.

Nearby, Antoinette Smith, a social media monitor, was reading through hundreds of tweets from customers who had tagged @EWRAirport with questions about screening procedures and reaching their destinations on time. “This job requires a lot of patience. Passengers have a lot of questions, and it’s my job to help them get the information they need,” she said.

Felder (left) and Smith (right) respond to customer inquiries.

The Newark Liberty AOC was set up in December 2019, joining JFK and LaGuardia in providing centralized coordination of day-to-day airport activities and customer service. While the coronavirus news continues to rapidly change, one thing remains the same at all Port Authority airports: there are thousands of employees continuing to do their jobs to help to keep the region moving.

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The action inside EWR Airport AOC

With the advent of a national health emergency dramatically affecting airports and other transportation hubs, the Newark Liberty AOC is also working on the front lines with its federal partners to assure a smooth-as-possible experience for travelers impacted by the events. Bock and his team work closely with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel serving at Newark Liberty, as well the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and other agencies.

“It’s our job to keep the airport operating and get passengers where they need to go. We’re actively working with partners at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), CBP, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the local health departments, to make sure health screenings are safe and efficient,” Bock said.

“On top of that, we’re deploying extra customer service agents and operations staff to help passengers find their way and address any concerns,” he said. “I know that our efforts are making a difference because I’ve read the tweets from happy customers.”

Posted in air travel, airport terminals, airports, AirTrain Newark, EWR, international flight, international travel, New Jersey Air Transportation, Newark, Newark Liberty International Airport, NY/NJ region, PANYNJ, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Uncategorized