Port Authority Breaks Ground on Clean Construction

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

This week, in celebration of Climate Week 2020 and as part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability, the Port Authority unveiled one of the most ambitious clean construction programs in the United States.

Recognizing that construction activity has environmental impacts and with the urgent need to mitigate effects of climate change wherever possible, the program has been created to reduce emissions, air pollution, and waste throughout the entire lifecycle of agency construction processes.

Central Hall under construction at LaGuardia Airport

Those goals became clear earlier this week as the Port Authority hosted a two-session, interactive seminar titled “Breaking Ground on Clean Construction.” Hundreds of participants heard panels of experts from the public and private sectors, non-governmental organizations, and academia as part of Climate Week NYC.

With 39 percent of all global carbon emissions coming from buildings and construction, innovative practices such as the Port Authority’s are critical in helping curb emissions and slow the effects of climate change. The agency’s Clean Construction Program implements strategies such as diverting concrete, asphalt, and steel waste from landfills; requiring low emissions vehicles on construction sites; and incorporating LEED and Envision-equivalent standards for sustainable design to do just that.

Executive Director Rick Cotton, who began his law career as an environmental lawyer, kicked off the program by reaffirming the Port Authority’s commitment to sustainability, one of the agency’s six core priorities.

“Climate change is an existential threat, and we’re committed to responding to that threat in everything we do,” he said. That includes working towards achieving the emissions reduction goals of the Paris Accords through strategies such as green building, which extends to the PA’s Clean Construction Program.

After a lively discussion, where panelists shared their optimism about the potential to change the construction industry for the better, Office of Energy and Environmental Programs Director, Christine Weydig, closed out the first day by highlighting the Port Authority’s duty to lead others towards cleaner construction practices.  “We can show the world how it can be done differently,” she said.

Construction crew on the GWB

If the first day of the conference focused on the big picture, Day 2 focused on the innovative strategies that panelists have employed to cut down on carbon emissions during construction, such as new data-gathering mechanisms and efficient on-site recycling practices that can help reduce costs and the use of natural resources.

For its part, the Port Authority is exploring a new platform that can track the carbon footprint of the materials contractors use, said Dorian Bailey, an environmental scientist in the Materials Engineering group. She added that the Port Authority has already decreased carbon emissions 17 percent by driving down the cement content of certain mixes.

The panelists seemed hopeful that new technologies for reducing and tracking carbon in the construction process will become more available as companies begin to see it as a priority.

Mary K. Murphy, the Port Authority’s Director of Planning and Regional Development Department,closed out the seminar by encouraging participants to think outside the box when coming up with solutions to combat the threat of climate change. “Each of you has influence. We will have to fight a few battles, but we will all be able to make a difference,” she said.

To learn more about the Clean Construction Program, view the press release here.

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Port Security Director Wrote the Book on Safety — Literally

By Amanda Kwan, Media Relations Staff

For anyone in a highly sensitive security job, it’s important to know the rules by the book. In the case of Michael Edgerton, the new security director of the Port of New York and New Jersey, he literally wrote it.

Michael Edgerton at work summer 2020

Edgerton, named to lead the port’s security efforts in January 2020, is the author of “A Practitioner’s Guide to Effective Maritime and Port Security,” published in 2013. His book, which calls on the international port industry to treat security as a form of risk management, is now used as a textbook in the maritime security field and details the prevention strategies he hopes to bring to the Port Authority.

“If a port simply complies with international code, they’re doing it to satisfy a legal requirement,” said Edgerton, during an interview in recognition of National Preparedness Month this month. “My view is that a port, in order to be both competitive and to exercise due diligence, needs to look at security as something beyond a government mandate.”

As the seaport’s security director, Edgerton is continuing an outstanding tradition of exceptional leadership in securing the Port Authority’s port facilities in both New York and New Jersey.

Current Deputy Port Director Beth Rooney was on the port technology team on 9/11. By the next day, she’d been reassigned the responsibility of securing the seaport as the nation grappled with new fears of attacks against its infrastructure – a position she ended up holding for 14 years. Rooney helped draft legislation that now serves as the anchor of national maritime security.

Edgerton arrived just two months before the coronavirus pandemic changed life, and has yet to meet many colleagues in person as they continue to work from home. Although the work situation is unusual, his job remains as important as ever, considering recent events such as the deadly explosion in the Port of Beirut this year.

After Beirut, port officials were inundated with questions on the likelihood of a similar incident here. With his background in the Coast Guard, one of the federal entities tasked with inspecting incoming cargo declared as “dangerous goods,” Edgerton already knew the answer: No, not here. Federal regulations require such goods to adhere to strict fire safety and security protocols, including segregation of materials expressly to avoid incidents similar to the Beirut explosion. The port has in place strict requirements for storage of anything deemed dangerous.

Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal

“The security and safety of our facilities is our top priority,” said Port Director Sam Ruda. “It is essential to have a seasoned professional like Mike on our team to keep our nationally recognized security program running and to stay ahead of emerging risks and threats.”

After a childhood spent partly in Europe, Edgerton considered the diplomatic corps after college, where he majored in international relations. Edgerton also holds a master’s degree in strategic intelligence from the National Intelligence University in Washington, D.C. — details of that advanced degree are withheld for obvious reasons. After seven years in the Navy that included an assignment in nuclear weapons security, he transferred to the Coast Guard with a focus on port security.

Having spent the better part of 30 years in the tri-state area, Edgerton took his current job for the challenge of its size, name recognition and reputation. “I found it in really good shape, but I want to leave it better than how I found it,” he said, citing improved cyber-security as one of his goals.

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Recovered from Sandy, Hoboken PATH Set to Weather the Next Storm

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

Eight years ago, the Hoboken PATH Station was devastated by the force of Superstorm Sandy. Today, well into the 2020 hurricane season and just ahead of NYC’s annual Climate Week, there are few lingering signs of the station damage from that perilous October night.

At the Hoboken Station, crews have been working through the pandemic to put the finishing touches on a formidable, multi-level flood protection system, a significant component of the agency-wide Sandy recovery program. The system is now set up to block several feet of water from flooding onto the tracks, which could disrupt service for hundreds of thousands of riders.

“Since 2009 we’ve addressed climate risks in project design, but Sandy brought a renewed urgency to our work,” said Port Authority Chief of Resilience and Sustainability Josh DeFlorio. “Through application of our Climate Resilience Guidelines, we’re continuing to harden our facilities to weather the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise and storm surge.” 

Crews working on flood protection in Hoboken

During a storm, rushing water from the Hudson River can be blockaded from reaching the depths of the station in several ways. It might hit up against aquarium-thickness glass at the elevator or an aluminum stoplog system at the top of a staircase, or reach a flexible fabric barrier that’s been pulled over one of the staircases in anticipation of a storm. If the water ultimately makes it down the staircases, there are massive steel doors locked in place ahead of time designed to keep water from approaching the tracks. The heaviest steel door – at the staircase between NJ Transit and PATH – weighs 5,600 pounds.

Renovated elevator with aquarium-thickness glass

The station’s upgrades are just a fraction of the enhancements taking place across the railroad to provide safer and more reliable service for riders.

In June 2020, the World Trade Center station reopened for weekend service six months ahead of schedule following extensive Sandy-related repairs. In June 2019, the new eastbound Harrison Station opened with specific flood mitigation measures already embedded into its design and retrofitted platforms to accommodate 9-car trains. The ability to accommodate longer trains at PATH stations is one of the key pieces of the agency’s $1 billion PATH Improvement Plan designed to reduce delays and improve the customer experience.

“The new flood protection systems we engineered are designed to help us get the railroad back up and running as quickly and safely as possible,” PATH Senior Project Manager Glenn Mack said. “It will now take us significantly less time to get the station ready for service again compared to what we faced after Sandy.”

The project is ahead of schedule, due in part to recent lower PATH ridership and the PATH team’s steady commitment throughout the pandemic to completing the project.

One of the flood doors ajar

“We took advantage of the fact that fewer people were moving in and out of the station as we advanced our resilience work at the Hoboken PATH Station and all across the system,” said Damian McShane, PATH’s Assistant Director for Capital Projects Management.  “I’m really proud of the hard work our teams put in to enhance the operational safety at Hoboken through this hurricane season and every hurricane season to come.”

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