PATH & Jersey City: 30 Years of Holiday Cheer

By Krista Didzbalis and Scott Ladd, Media Relations Staff

Great Port Authority traditions often start with a simple idea.

Such was the case with the annual PATH Holiday Poster Contest. It was 30 years ago this year when Myron Hurwitz, a Port Authority customer service manager, approached Jersey City school officials with a suggestion. Hurwitz had seen the artwork of Jersey City students at local art exhibitions, and thought they deserved a bigger platform for their talents – and a way to help bring holiday cheer to PATH riders.

After discussions involving PATH and Ann Marley and Nancy Healey from the Jersey City Visual and Performing Arts program, a holiday tradition was born. The first winner was Laura Hudak, at the time a first-grader at Jersey City’s PS 38.


The first-ever winner: PS 38 first-grader Laura Hudak, age 6, circa 1989

PATH and Jersey City marked the 30-year milestone with their annual ceremony, held at PATH’s Journal Square headquarters on Thursday, December 5, to unveil the 2019 prize winners. More than six million passengers riding the PATH this winter season will enjoy decorative artwork displayed in stations and rail cars, bringing a special feeling of joy and helping passengers find their true holiday spirit.

It’s a different PATH than when the contest debuted. Daily ridership numbers then stood at about 201,000 a day in 1989. Current ridership on average is closer to 300,000 on weekdays. New, modern stations, facilities and services are in place or in the pipeline as part of the ongoing effort to improve the commute for PATH customers.


And this year’s grand prize winner, courtesy of sixth-grader Lawrence Ballesteros

But the more things change, the more one of the agency’s enduring traditions remains the same.

“This has been a wonderful partnership between PATH and the Jersey City community for 30 years, something we look forward to every year,” said PATH’s Linda Doss, who has directed the event since 2010. “We’re thrilled to be able to work with our friends at the Jersey City Board of Education on the holiday poster contest, and to recognize these talented young artists.”

The contest has evolved over the years. Initially designed for a single winner drawn from entries submitted by kindergarten through 8th grade students, it expanded to three age groups with one grand prize winner selected from the three category winners. Sixth-grader Lawrence Ballesteros from M.S. 7 was awarded the top prize this season for his depiction of a PATH train traveling through a holiday wreath. More than 500 students participated this year.

Marley, who was there at the beginning and now serves as Director of Visual and Performing Arts for the Jersey City school system, says the contest brings out the best in her students.

“The beauty of creating and sharing art is two-fold,” she said. “For the artist, it is the sheer joy of bringing your ideas, dreams, and hopes into an actual piece of art. The second experience of sheer joy is what the artist is able to make others see in their creation.”


Category winners Polina Sobolev, Lawrence Ballesteros and Caidence Ramirez

Posted in PATH, Uncategorized

At JFK, A Different Kind of Flight Insurance

By Krista Didzbalis, Media Relations Staff

Nestled among the active runways, ramps, and taxiways of John F. Kennedy International Airport sits an area virtually unknown to travelers — an airside fire station serving as home to the Port Authority’s Airport Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) crew. In the event of an airport ground emergency, ARFF members are trained to respond, mitigate hazards, and evacuate or rescue aircraft passengers and crew.

For Barry Daskal, a Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) sergeant and ARFF crew chief at JFK, his unit provides a critical layer of protection for travelers flying into and out of one of the world’s busiest airports.

“We’re like an insurance policy for the airport,” he said. “Our job is to make sure the public is safe.”


A typical day for Daskal starts at 7 a.m. at the airport firehouse, where he begins by catching up with fellow crew members, gathers updates from the overnight shift, takes care of routine truck maintenance and conducts other preparatory tasks, such as reviewing tools, trucks and aircrafts,

The ARFF crew at JFK, and similar units stationed at Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia and Teterboro airports, occasionally are called in to handle engine fires or other more severe emergency events requiring rapid responses or passenger evacuation.

More common are the types of calls that are precautionary and designed to quickly identify and minimize potential problems. That includes odors or alarms that may indicate a possible aircraft issue. With a thermal imaging camera, firefighters look for smoke, flames, leaks, excess heat signatures, and problems with hydraulics.

No sooner had Daskal begun his preparation on a recent morning when a call came in about an aircraft with overheating brakes and wheels. The crew responded immediately, taking heat readings from his onboard truck system and the thermal camera, which determined the brakes were at 700 degrees and climbing.

Daskal directed the operation, updating the police communications desk while truck-mounted water turrets and hoses controlled by his firefighters cooled the breaks. The aircraft was towed safely back to the gate, with minimal delays to airport operations. Passengers remained safely on board throughout the incident.

One afternoon, an aircraft had returned to the airport after the flight crew received an indication of a strange odor. The ARFF crew ventilated the aircraft, helped the passengers safely deplane, escorted them to buses and brought the flight crew to nearby ambulances called as a precaution.

“It’s just a different mindset,” Daskal said of the crew’s firefighting regimen. “When you’re a regular structural firefighter, you’re taught that the quicker you put out the fire, the quicker the problem goes away. The big difference for us is that we need to create and maintain escape paths and control an emergency rather than focus on extinguishing.”

Daskal began his own Port Authority journey in 2002 as a member of the PAPD, where he was initially assigned to patrol at JFK. To be cross-trained as a firefighter, he took a training opportunity at the Fire Academy in 2004 before joining ARFF in 2014.

As crew chief, he is responsible for conducting training sessions. Firefighters rotate through topics as simple as firefighter safety to more focused training on specialized ARFF equipment. In addition to overseeing training, Daskal must familiarize himself with every aircraft that flies out of JFK airport and understand specialized tools and equipment.


Real-life, real-time fire drills are critical to ARFF training

A volunteer firefighter in his Massapequa, L.I. community for more than 25 years, Daskal is equally as passionate about protecting and serving his community as he is the people who work at and travel through Port Authority facilities.

“The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that we are here to ensure that the public is safe. Knowing that a simple intervention with an emergency can impact travelers around the world is a really cool feeling,” he said.


Posted in Uncategorized

Battening Down the WTC Hatches

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

When Superstorm Sandy hit New York City on October 29, 2012, much of the World Trade Center site was still under construction, including the “South Bathtub” where Liberty Park and the Vehicular Security Center (VSC) – the entrance for WTC delivery vehicles and parking — now stand.

Water driven by Sandy’s storm surge came rushing in, gushing downhill towards the site and straight into the cavities created from ongoing rebuilding efforts.

As the seventh anniversary of the devastating storm approaches, the WTC campus today is not only home to office buildings, businesses, and critical transportation networks, but to a modern and advanced flood mitigation system set to fully protect the site and transportation infrastructure from another storm like Sandy.


An at-grade sliding flexible barrier at the Memorial sidewalk

Carla Bonacci, the Port Authority’s assistant director for WTC Infrastructure and Project Development, led a team of project managers, designers, and contractors to develop the unique flood mitigation system, called the Water Intrusion Protection System (WIPS).

Today, a flood wall around the site’s perimeter can be deployed and more than 200 individual barriers are in place. The completion of the remaining few installations is set for early 2020. Additionally, interim measures are already in place for the Performing Arts Center site currently under construction. As construction progresses, permanent flood protections will be concurrently built there.

“Sandy impacted us significantly during construction as well as disrupting PATH service, but the stakes are even greater now with an operating site and thousands of daily workers,” Bonacci said. “With the completion of the WIPS World Trade Center resiliency program that we began designing in 2013, we’ll be addressing the risks of climate change and ensure the long-term safety and security of the area.”


Bonacci on the WTC site

The intricate system includes three custom-designed rings of protection that blend in with the existing site and accommodate the site’s unique topography and history. In fact, much of the equipment used has not been configured in this way anywhere else in the country.

The first ring of protection is an innovative bollard protection system (BPS), which utilizes the sidewalk bollards, the 3-foot-high metal posts that secure the 9/11 Memorial and One World Trade Center.

If a catastrophic storm approaches, the tops are removed from the bollards and steel posts are mounted on top to increase their heights to up to eight feet. Then, steel planks are laid on top of one another, bound by adjacent bollards or the façade of the VSC, on either side, depending on location. These create an extremely strong barrier that blocks water and can  prevent permanent damage to electrical and mechanical equipment.

The second ring of protection, known as the at-grade WIPS, includes an 18-foot-wide roll-down door resembling a garage door in the VSC, custom made to fit its dimensions and adapt to the topography of the ground.

The third ring of protection is located below-grade, where more than 140 individual barriers and watertight doors protect critical infrastructure locations underground. This third ring also features an enhanced sump pump system in the sub-basement of the VSC that can pump out 2.2 million gallons of water in 12 hours– a 55-percent increase in capacity from the previous system. This system would only be activated should the floodwaters make it past the first two rings of protection.

“In building the WIPS, we wanted to make sure the aesthetics and the state-of-the-art architecture of the area were maintained,” Bonacci said. “The structures are virtually invisible, unlike sandbags or permanent barriers. When the next storm surge comes, it’s crucial that we’re able to keep the region and our economy moving, and these three rings of protection will enable us to do just that.”


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Posted in PANYNJ, Port Authority, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Port Authority of NY/NJ, Uncategorized, World Trade Center, World Trade Center Redevelopment, World Trade Center Transportation Oculus, WTC