Baby Oysters Cruise from Port Authority’s Red Hook Terminal

By Amanda Kwan, Media Relations Staff

The Port Authority and the Billion Oyster Project (BOP) celebrated their years-long partnership in mid-July with a ceremony involving 15 million oysters – but not a single one ended up on a seafood platter.

The BOP began moving the oysters from a new waterfront seeding facility at the Brooklyn Port Authority Marine Terminal via barge last month to their new underwater home near Soundview Park, at the mouth of the Bronx River. The move was enabled by the Red Hook Container Terminal (RHCT), a Port Authority tenant that donated space and four shipping containers retrofitted to serve as a school bus of sorts for the oyster babies en route to the Bronx River.

The collaboration with BOP provides waterfront access and the logistics equipment needed to hoist the shipping containers – each filled with 9,000 gallons of seawater and oyster racks – onto Port Authority-owned barges to carry baby oysters to the farther reaches of New York Harbor. Oysters are just as delicate as their taste; the babies cannot survive long outside their optimal living conditions. Ensuring they remain blissfully uninterrupted in their watery homes is crucial to their survival.

Altogether, these first four shipping containers transported 15 million baby oysters north from Brooklyn to the mouth of the Bronx River, where eventually five new acres of oyster reefs will help filter millions of gallons of seawater to benefit the city’s marine ecology. Millions more oysters will take a ride in the shipping containers later this month from Brooklyn to the new reefs in the Bronx River.

Photos by Douglas Lyle Thompson, courtesy of the Billion Oyster Project

“This is a big moment for our crew and community at large,” said BOP Executive Director Pete Malinowski.

The Port Authority’s history with the BOP predates its evolution from a project at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. In 2009, while working in the Port Department, Robin Bramwell-Stewart met Harbor School representatives interested in developing a maritime training center on Governors Island. It led to the PA working with the school to place students into Port Department internships, tours of Port facilities, Port-related school projects and workforce development programs for students.  

“Part of the reason for being involved with the BOP and the Harbor School is to be involved in programs that can produce the next generation of maritime workers for our Port,” said Bramwell-Stewart,  now the PA’s interim general manager for its three Staten Island bridges who became a BOP board member in late 2018. “A clean and sustainable harbor, which provides a source of regional employment, is critical for the future of the Port and harbor life in New York.”

As one of BOP’s 19 board members, Bramwell-Stewart makes policy and strategic decisions to help reach a goal of seeding one billion oysters in New York Harbor by 2035 and to increase public education of the city’s marine ecology and oyster reef restoration. Not only do the reefs clean the water, they also help protect waterfront communities and critical Port Authority assets like tunnels and airports from storm damage by reducing flooding and preventing shoreline erosion. So far, more than 30 million oysters have been planted and 13 reef sites have been installed with help from students and volunteers, including some from the Port Authority. Most recently, 15 PA staffers volunteered with BOP through the Port Authority’s Remembrance Through Renewal program, which provides employees with volunteering opportunities to honor those who died in the two World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

Photos of last year’s PA volunteer group working with oyster shells

“The Port Authority has hands in the city’s air, land and sea, and we’re using them to help whenever possible,” said Bramwell-Stewart.

“We support the efforts of the Billion Oyster Project, and together with their work and the Port of New York and Jersey’s sustainability initiatives, it’s clear that the health of New York Harbor is improving for sea life,” said Beth Rooney, Deputy Director of the Port Department. “We definitely can use more oysters right now.”

Photos by Douglas Lyle Thompson, courtesy of the Billion Oyster Project

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PATH Tracks a Steady Course Through the Pandemic

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

PATH Assistant Operations Analyst Gretchin Noel spent a recent morning on the phone with electricians, signal repairmen, and structural and track maintainers, laying out the week’s assignments for the 100 or so people dedicated to performing crucial infrastructure work. Under normal circumstances, the task would be busy and fast-paced. But these aren’t normal circumstances.

During the pandemic, the maintenance and construction crews have kept PATH running on schedule day in and day out. Track and signal repairs, upgrading security systems, and maintaining high tension electrical systems continue 24/7 across the system, rain or shine, to ensure that essential workers and commuters get to their destinations safely.

Organizing the “track rights,” as PATH refers to it – who can go out to what track at what time – is an essential task, and Noel is a key part of the process. The scheduling takes into account the Port Authority’s long-term goals for the railroad, such as increasing capacity and reducing delays as detailed in the ongoing PATH Improvement Plan, as well as solving day-to-day issues and performing regular maintenance work.

Noel’s Wednesday mornings used to involve gathering staff in a conference room at PATH’s headquarters in Jersey City, where they would use an intricate magnetic board to visualize where workers, their vehicles, and the trains would be at any given moment. All that changed when social distancing and working from home became the norm. Noel had to figure out how to conduct her meetings remotely.

“You have to be adaptable in this job. It can be stressful at times, but I love it,” she said.

Noel added that she never thought she’d be in this position, facilitating complicated logistics for one of the nation’s most critical rail systems – and commanding a room of mostly men to do it. Over time, she’s had to learn how to speak up and put her foot down when required. “I credit my mother with teaching me how to be tough. I know my voice matters just as much as anyone else’s in that room,” she said.

Regular maintenance and improving the customer experience go hand in hand. The PATH Improvement Plan, unveiled in June 2019, calls for measures like extending 8-car trains to 9-car trains on the Newark-WTC line and decreasing headways between trains. Without Noel and her team’s attention to detail and unwavering diligence, tasks like extending the platforms at Grove Street to accommodate these longer trains and maintaining a new signal system so that trains can run closer together, would not happen.

“We strive for reliability and quality every day,” PATH Transportation Superintendent Kevin Lejda said. “As long as our customers get where they need to go safely and efficiently, then we’ve done our jobs right. The less the public sees or is impacted by our work behind the scenes, the better.”

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Lincoln Tunnel Flooding: Pouring Cold Water on a Viral Video

By Amanda Kwan, Media Relations Staff

Late on a recent Tuesday afternoon, crews at the Lincoln Tunnel were notified of a water main rupture in an area inside the Tunnel’s Center Tube. Water streamed over the catwalk into the tube, captured on video by a motorist whose posted social media images went viral and generated discussion about the tunnel’s safety.

A damaged water pipe was quickly identified and isolated by maintenance staff. Crews closed one New York-bound lane to set a portable pump to force the water onto the catwalk and down to the roadway, where drains could carry the water to the New York City sewer system. The system worked as designed, pumping out the excess water as repairs to the water main began.  For the Lincoln Tunnel maintenance team, a pipe rupture is just one of any daily emergencies that can pop up and be readily handled at a moment’s notice.

For some, the video recalled the plot of a 1996 action movie in which a police chase results in a truck explosion inside another famous Hudson River underwater crossing, causing a collapse and subsequent flood.

“This reminds me of the old Sylvester Stallone disaster movie ‘Daylight’ in the Lincoln Tunnel. 2020 is half following every disaster movie plot so far,” tweeted Eric Feigl-Ding, a Harvard University epidemiologist.

But while 2020, with its global pandemic and threat of murder hornets, seems to be following the plots of multiple Hollywood movies at once, a Lincoln Tunnel collapse is not among them.

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A video screenshot of the flooding, shared on multiple social media platforms.

“The Lincoln Tunnel is one of the world’s greatest feats of engineering,” said Hanson Lee, assistant director of operations for the Port Authority’s Tunnels, Bridges & Terminals Department. “Its skeletal structure is made up of hundreds of massive 21-ton iron rings that were bolted together. In addition, the interior of the rings is encased in concrete, thereby sealing out the Hudson River.”

The tunnel was built in portions, with one team digging from the New Jersey side and another from New York, aligning precisely both horizontally and vertically on August 3, 1935 when a hydraulic engineer from the New Jersey side was pushed by his feet through to the awaiting New York crew. Each of its three tubes carries two vehicle lanes for a total width of 21 feet, 6 inches.

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One of many social media reactions to the viral video.

Beyond the vehicle travel lanes within each tube, other infrastructure inside the tunnels supports operations and maintenance. Catwalks allow maintenance crews safe access to lighting, power, communications and pump rooms, which house cables, ducts and various equipment. Each tube also houses a complex water discharge system that consists of multiple pumps and sump collection points that drain water out of the tunnel and into the New York City municipal sewer system. During Superstorm Sandy, the Lincoln Tunnel did not flood, unlike many other under-river tunnels around Manhattan.

Regular routine maintenance keeps the Lincoln Tunnel in a state of good repair, allowing millions of personal autos, commercial trucks and commuter buses to cross between New York and New Jersey each year, ensuring that interstate commerce flows freely. Even with pandemic-related travel restrictions in place, more than 700,000 vehicles took the Lincoln Tunnel into New York in May.

And all of the drivers and passengers can drive with confidence that the Lincoln Tunnel of real life – not a Hollywood fiction — will continue to transport them safely to dry ground.

“The Lincoln Tunnel is a critical link between New York and New Jersey for people who live and work in both states and for the supply chain for the entire region,” said Gerard Lindenmeier, the general manager of the Lincoln Tunnel. “Our goal is, and will always be, to maintain the Lincoln Tunnel so that it’s safe for everyone to use for many more decades to come.”

Posted in Hudson River, Hudson tunnels, Lincoln Tunnel, New Jersey, New York, NY/NJ region, NYC, PANYNJ, Port Authority, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Port Authority of NY/NJ, transportation, Uncategorized