Winona Wingfield: Wayfinder at the Port Authority Bus Terminal

By Rudy King, Media Relations Staff

Winona Wingfield is the Hell’s Kitchen equivalent of Waze, the popular go-to navigational app for traffic and road information used worldwide.

She’s the human version of a wayfinder at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) for almost 150,000 people who visit her information kiosk near the 8th Avenue entrance every year.

It’s been that way for more than 32 years. Wingfield joined the PABT in 1984 as an information agent where she learned the ropes by answering incoming phone calls. The Queens native soon earned a promotion to the next level, a post which she occupies today.

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Winona Wingfield inside her kiosk at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where she’s worked for more than 32 years.

Experienced commuters and newcomers alike queue at Wingfield’s window for a few moments of face time with her. They may speak different languages and hail from every walk of life, but most of them ask a variation on the same question: how best to navigate the wild world of New York City.

“It can be difficult sometimes, because I communicate with people in need, who are sometimes angry, stressed or in a rush, and on occasion in emergency situations,” Wingfield said.

Once Wingfield played a key role in returning a 15-year-old runaway to the safety of her family in Pennsylvania. The young woman had been missing from home for months when she turned up at the PABT. Wingfield’s instincts told her there “was something special about the girl.”

“I can’t recall now what she was wearing or what she looked like, but I just knew somehow she belonged somewhere. She looked like a person who had a family that cared about her,” said Wingfield.

Still, when the girl asked to use her phone, Wingfield hesitated. The use of personal phones on the job was strictly against the rules. Trusting her instincts, Wingfield handed the girl her phone anyway. The girl called her mother, who already had involved law enforcement. The call from Wingfield’s phone, and her conversation with the girl’s mother, helped authorities reunite the teenager with her family.

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Wingfield provides assistance to some 150,000 people every year.

While Wingfield usually doesn’t get involved in the lives of the strangers in her line, she tries to be as friendly as she can, as if she’s known them a lifetime. She answers every conceivable question from restroom facilities to bus and train departures, walking directions, bus routes, gate numbers and a thousand other requests.

In fact, her style of customer service is so fast and efficient it rivals the megahertz of a computer.

Asked about how she handles some 500 people per shift, Wingfield says she really doesn’t do anything special. When it comes to technology, she’s old school; her only equipment are schedules, a telephone, a CPU monitor and, perhaps the most important of all, an easy smile.

“My focus is that everyone who stops at the kiosk gets the assistance they need. That’s my main priority. It’s important to me,” she said.

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Wingfield provides assistance to travelers from every walk of life and to many for whom English is not their first language.  

Posted in bus terminal, NYC, PABT, PANYNJ, Port Authority Bus Terminal, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, transportation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Earth Day 2017: The WTC, Where High Tech Sustains Mother Nature

By Roz Hamlett, Portfolio Editor

As the planet pauses for Earth Day 2017, now’s a good time to consider how one green campus – the leafy and canopied World Trade Center (WTC) site – manages to be a relatively stress-free zone for some trees in a city that can be tough for even the hardiest plants.

Part of the answer lies 25 feet above Liberty Street, atop the WTC’s Vehicular Security Center (VSC) and adjacent to the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. There, an 18-zone irrigation drip system sustains 19 planters filled with trees, shrubs, perennials and ground cover in Liberty Park. The system also provides water to more than 20,000 plants on the vertical face of the Living Wall and to the Anne Frank tree, planted last May as a living monument to the young Holocaust victim and renowned diarist.

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The Anne Frank tree in Liberty Park is one of the first trees to leaf out in the spring as temperatures warm.

“It’s amazing when you think how trees in large settings used to be maintained. Today, advanced technology is available in a phone app that allows landscapers to access information remotely from moisture sensors in the ground,” said Christine Weydig, director of the Port Authority’s Office of Environmental and Energy Programs (OEEP). “They can pinpoint the needs of a specific tree quickly and respond from almost anywhere.”

The care and feeding of the Anne Frank tree — a descendant of the tree she saw from her window in Amsterdam during World War II – as well as other Liberty Park plantings are controlled from a windowless, bunker-like room behind a nondescript steel door known as the “Irrigation Room.” It’s a kind of war room specially equipped with computerized water lines, pumps and gauges. From this location, water is dispatched to hundreds of different plant varieties through a subway-like labyrinth of tubing.

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Ira Heitner of Cushman & Wakefield is responsible for manning the irrigation room.  He is shown here monitoring the pumps that push water through the 18-zone system.

Liberty Park acts as a green roof for the VSC. Rainwater is collected in storm detention tanks located strategically throughout the park and then is released slowly back into the city storm water system.

The 9/11 Memorial Plaza has its own separate irrigation system. The 416 white swamp oaks that border the memorial fountains are watered locally by irrigation systems in each building. Some of the rainwater is collected in the large reflecting pools that mark the “footprints” of the original towers, where it’s stored in high-efficiency evaporative cooling towers and then circulated to meet the landscaping needs of the memorial plaza.

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The plaza is designed to channel rainwater into drainage troughs that feed into underground cisterns. The water is then pulled into an underground drip irrigation system that waters the trees. The plaza also includes underground aeration pipes to supply air to the roots, and the tree roots are braced to prevent them from buckling the pavement. To further ensure viability, each tree has a monitoring system within its root zone that sends reports on conditions and the tree’s overall health and growth.

Bernice Malione, OEEP’s deputy director, said new technology is helping the agency preserve and sustain “a beautiful and healthy landscape” as spring arrives and new plant life blossoms around the WTC.

“Internet-based platforms and smart devices are allowing the Port Authority to achieve state-of-the-art irrigation,” added Malione.

 

 

Posted in 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Earth Day, Liberty Park, One World Trade Center, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

JFK International Airport: Nothing is Really Lost Until Fran Can’t Find It

By Roz Hamlett, Portfolio Editor

Fran Safina is a finder of lost loves, of the material kind, at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). She handles and recovers items that don’t have much meaning or intrinsic value to anyone other than the owner. But, as most everyone knows, the loss of a coveted sentimental treasure, well, that can be a tear-jerker.

“I’m known by only one name, (like Cher,)” said Fran, who has maintained the lost and found office for almost nine years at JFK’s Building 14. That’s enough time to have seen and heard it all – both the agony and the ecstasy of travelers who are separated and then reunited with beloved possessions.

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Fran Safina manages the Lost & Found at Kennedy Airport

“It’s always an adventure in lost and found,” she said recently. “You don’t know what you’re going to receive and who lost it. But it’s so rewarding to connect a patron with their lost property.”

Fran’s got lots of stories. Like the time Fran the sleuth tracked down luggage full of cherished old photographs from a wedding invitation that was also inside.  She contacted the wedding venue, which helped locate the owner of the luggage, a mother who had flown to California to work on the family photo albums while attending her dying father, who passed a few weeks later.  “She was so overwhelmed with emotion at recovering the photographs that she could hardly speak to me,” said Fran.

An Orthodox couple, newlyweds from Brooklyn, had returned to JFK following their wedding in Israel. A very distraught husband left a phone message that he’d lost his wedding hat at the airport. Fran received a round box with a hat inside a few days later.  “He came running to my office to retrieve it.  His wife came along, too, and she was in tears.”

Fran’s recoveries have run the gamut, from the usual spate of phones, canes, walkers and crutches, to immigration papers, green cards and passports and, recently, an official letter from the Vatican with the Pope’s seal and signed by a Vatican official. That was left at a security checkpoint.

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Fran pictured with her colleagues at Kennedy Airport:  Ann Marie Brooke (left) and Gail Braxton (right).

While Fran may not have the Pope’s influence, at least to one New Jersey man she’s right up there with St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things and lost causes. The man had dropped off his wife at JFK for a flight to Russia during a recent Nor’easter. When weather cancelled her flight, he told her to check into a hotel. In the confusion, three pieces of luggage were left behind in Terminal 1.

“When he arrived to pick up his wife’s things, he told me that he had prayed to St. Anthony, although his friends had said praying wasn’t likely to do any good,” Fran said. “That man was so happy that St. Anthony had brought him to me that he vowed never to let his wife travel alone again.”

Since 2010, Fran also has supported a recycling program in which she sends unclaimed cell phones to the Cellular Recycler, an independent nonprofit. The organization makes out a check on behalf of the Port Authority that then is donated to programs that improve the quality of life for older New Yorkers and their families.

“I’m sold on the program because it’s a win-win for older people and the Port Authority. It doesn’t get better than that,” said Fran.

 

To report a loss at JFK, call 718-244-4225 for detailed instructions on how to proceed with a search.

Posted in John F. Kennedy International Airport, Kennedy Airport, New York, NYC, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Uncategorized | Tagged ,