NY/NJ Harbor Deepening and the Lost Islands

By Portfolio Editor Roz Hamlett

There was once a 132-acre island in Jamaica Bay within view of Kennedy Airport known as Elders Point. After years of degradation, the land split into separate islands connected only by mud.  The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) observed that Elders Point was sinking, and fast. Because the salt marsh island was in dire straits, Elders Point went to the top of the NPS restoration list.


Salt marshes are where fresh and saltwater mix, their importance extending beyond the environment to the commercial fishing industry as they contribute to healthy fish stocks. Without drastic intervention, not only Elders Point, but all the remaining salt marshes in Jamaica Bay were doomed to disappear at a clip of 44 acres annually – left alone, the marshes could vanish entirely by 2025.

That’s when the Port Authority threw the embattled Elders Point a lifeline, a project that began 10 years ago. The rescue of Elders Point was accomplished as part of the recently completed Harbor Deepening Navigation Program. The program dredged a 50-foot channel access to the six container terminals of the Port of New York and New Jersey (PONYNJ) by deepening Ambrose Channel from deep water in the Atlantic Ocean to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, better enabling PONYNJ to receive the biggest ships from around the world.   4857242552_956f38ea7f-1

Restoring Elders Point involved using some of the dredge material from the channel to create a refuge for habitat and to restore vegetation, with nearly one million plants placed by hand.  The project required 17 million cubic yards of clean sand, and blasted rock was used to create fishing reefs.

“The Port Authority, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, came to the rescue in a way that exceeded our initial goals,” said Atef Ahmed, program manager of the Harbor Deepening Project. “The ecosystem we helped to create is thriving and supporting a vibrant multitude of wildlife habitat.”


But according to Port Authority Wildlife Biologist Laura Francoeur, the agency also works hard to achieve the right balance between aviation safety and the preservation of the disappearing marshes, which are the heart of the urban ecosystem of the bay.

“Because of the close proximity of Jamaica Bay to our airports, we also have to make sure that we’re not creating a hazard for the airports by attracting too many birds that may inadvertently cause a bird strike,” said Francoeur.

The Port Authority’s success with Elders Point has led to an ongoing partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to restore additional islands in Jamaica Bay. The salt marshes are a critical part of the first urban national park that was established in 1972 under the U.S. Department of the InteriorNational Park ServiceGateway National Recreation Area. The refuge encompasses 9,155 acres of diverse habitats, including upland field and woods, several fresh and brackish water ponds – all located within New York City. It’s one of the best spots to observe migrating birds.

Francoeur is optimistic about the restorations, but she also sounds a note of caution, “Nothing we ever do is simple. The restoration of salt marshes is about finding the right balance,” she said.

Posted in Atlantic Ocean, commerical shipping, containerization, Jamaica Bay, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Kennedy Airport, Kennedy International, NY/NJ region, PONYNJ, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority of NY/NJ, Port of New York & New Jersey, Port Region, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

Replacing a Rail Bridge to Make Way for the New Goethals

By Neal Buccino, Media Relations Staff

Photography by Mike Dombrowki, Port Authority Staff


BEFORE:  The old Travis Spur Bridge on Friday, October 7, hours before its demolition.  Notice how its concrete piers constrict the roads connecting to the Goethals Bridge.  The Goethals stands in the background, with its replacement under construction to the left.

Sometimes, to replace an enormous bridge, you first have to replace a smaller one.

The Goethals Bridge is 1.3 miles long, and currently undergoing a historic replacement. But that job couldn’t proceed without the demolition and replacement of its relatively puny neighbor — the 212-foot-long Travis Spur Rail Bridge at the foot of the Goethals, which carries train tracks over I-278 in Staten Island.


DEMOLITION:  The bridge’s steel and concrete fall to excavators mounted with giant shears and jackhammers.  

The rail bridge crosses over roads that carry traffic to and from the Goethals, and its concrete piers constricted the width of those roads that needed to be expanded to connect traffic with the new Goethals, which will be twice as wide as its functionally obsolete 88-year-old predecessor.


HALFWAY THERE:  By the next morning, Saturday October 8, the Travis spur and its thick concrete piers are gone.

It’s not easy to tear down a steel bridge, demolish its concrete supports and replace them with something new. But the Port Authority, in partnership with developer NYNJ Link and contractor KWM, managed to get the job done in two and a half days – nine hours ahead of schedule.

If you think that’s quick, check out this time-lapse video by the Port Authority’s Mike Dombrowski.  Be sure to click the YouTube icon at the bottom of the video to watch the action.

In the two-minute video, the original Travis bridge vanishes within seconds (actually the work of several hours on a Friday night), after being sliced and pummeled by giant excavator-mounted shears and jackhammers. Then comes the grand finale, as cranes stack up concrete sections to make the new piers and self-driving vehicles slide two prefabricated steel spans into place, creating the new Travis Spur Rail Bridge.


NEW SPAN:  A self-propelled, multi-wheeled transport slides one of the new Travis bridge’s prefabricated steel spans into place.

It was all done with great efficiency and, thanks to plenty of advance planning and coordination with police and other partners on both sides of the Arthur Kill, minimal impacts to traffic.

As for the Goethals Bridge Replacement Project, it continues at full speed.


AFTER:  The new Travis Spur Rail Bridge on Monday, October 10.  The roadways approaching the Goethals now have plenty of room to expand and direct access to the Goethals, which is still under-construction.






Posted in bridges, NY/NJ region, PANYNJ, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Staten Island, Staten Island bridges, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Port Authority Staffers Show Off Photography Skills at Bus Terminal Display

By Neal Buccino, Media Relations Staff

It’s no secret that the men and women who keep traffic moving at the Port Authority’s bridges, tunnels and terminals are among the most skilled and talented in the region.  But it may come as a surprise that some apply their professional skills, keen attention to detail and superb technical know-how, to a passion for photography.

Processed with Snapseed.

Left to right:  Port Authority photographer Michael Dombrowski, Rafael Azucar (Parsons Transportation Group), engineer Manuel Peraza, Goethals Bridge Project Director James Blackmore, Tunnels, Bridges & Tunnels Director Cedrick Fulton, Nicole Hunter (HNTB Corporation), Port Authority Bus Terminal Manager Diannae Ehler and Operations Supervisor, Myron Johnson at the unveiling of the Tunnels Bridges and Terminals photography exhibit.  Photo credit: Tony Gregory

“Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals,” a new exhibit running through November at the Port Authority Bus Terminal’s art display area, makes these hidden talents visible to the public. Inside the bus terminal’s south wing near the Ninth Avenue entrance, the exhibit is one of about 15 in the 2016 Garment District Arts Festival, according to Gerald Scupp, Vice President of the Garment District Alliance.The bus terminal display includes photos by Port Authority staff members or contractors: Cedrick T. Fulton, Director of the Port Authority’s Department of Tunnels, Bridges & Terminals; James Blackmore, Program Director of the Goethals Bridge Replacement Program; Port Authority engineer Manuel Peraza; Port Authority photographer Michael Dombrowski (whose photos are well known to Portfolio readers);  Nicole Hunter, Dianne Cilento and Liliana Kelly of HNTB Corporation, a PA contractor, and Rafael Azucar of Parsons Transportation Group, another agency contractor.

Some photos showcase ongoing Port Authority construction projects, including the Goethals Bridge Replacement Program and Bayonne Bridge “Raise the Roadway” project. But the majority are more personal subjects.


“Butterfly” by Cedrick Fulton

Fulton’s photos span a wide variety of subjects: Action shots, such as a black-and-white image of a skateboarder frozen in midair; a golden-glowing landscape of the San Diego skyline, and natural photos that include fierce bald eagles and a butterfly, highlighting the veins in its gold and purple wings.


“San Diego” by Cedrick Fulton

He described the “magic combination” as capturing a compelling subject with great light. “The challenge is creating that combination when you want it, as opposed to catching it by accident every once in a while. Having said that, patience is huge because sometimes you have to wait for the time of day, time of year, or a special moment.”


“Skateboard” by Cedrick Fulton

With the skateboard shot, he said, “my goal was rather simple – stop the motion of the skateboarder at the apex of his jump, and capture the other photographer in the picture, while he was taking a picture.”   At a live butterfly exhibit in Arizona, “I was able to freeze the butterfly by putting the shutter into burst mode and, well, sometimes you get lucky.”

Blackmore specializes in wildlife, including crisply detailed photos of ducks and loons captured while paddling in the creeks of the Adirondacks. The birds are in natural motion, oblivious to the presence of a photographer several yards away.


“Mallard” by James Blackmore

“I’ve been paddling with the loons, ducks, blue herons, and others for several years and have developed paddling methods to get close without disturbing them. I know that often, when a duck or loon dives, it dries its wings (by stretching or flapping),” Blackmore said.

Blackmore prepares his camera in advance for such shots. When the timing seems right, he drifts toward the subject and presses the shutter. “It is then a matter of luck that the subject actually does what you anticipated and that you press the shutter at the right moment,” he said.

Peraza’s Storm Over Yosemite was opportunistic. “The picture appeared in front of me,” he recalled. “I asked my friend and climbing partner to stop the car. I went in the rain across the road to an abandoned structure and got my shot.”

Hunter’s displays include triptychs – groups of three photos that together tell a story. One tryptic includes three photos of the Schooner Aurora, a famous boat based in Newport, R.I. “My favorite place to watch boats sail by is in Newport at Castle Hill,” she said. “As the Aurora sails by, each photo captures a unique moment:  a race going on in the distance, the lawn filling up with people sitting in the Adirondack chairs, and another sailboat starting to tack to avoid the schooner.”


“Schooner Aurora” by Nicole Hunter

Fulton worked with operations supervisor Myron Johnson, who manages the bus terminal’s art display area, to organize the exhibit. “My hope is that this is just the beginning, that other people who are into taking photos can move them out of the computer and into a space for others to see,” Fulton said.




Posted in Bayonne Bridge, Goethals Bridge, Goethals Replacement Bridge, New York, NYC, PABT, Port Authority Bus Terminal, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Portfolio, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , ,