A New Voice for Port Authority Veterans

By Joe Iorio, Media Relations Staff

At the Port Authority, a new employee resource group has formed to not only advocate for the recruitment of veterans but, more importantly, to give them a lasting support system once they’re hired.

Started in November 2017, the Port Authority Veterans Association (PAVA) represents an active community of Port Authority professionals, both military veterans and supportive colleagues, who led efforts to help retired, active duty and reserve members of the U.S. armed forces.

The group’s 80 members are led by the association’s inaugural president, Sean Kazmark. He is assisted by PAVA Vice-President Sam Orlan, Treasurer Ryan Flanagan and Secretary Francis Caponi.

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PAVA leaders Sam Orlan, Ryan Flanagan and Sean Kazmark with former Port Authority Aviation Director Thomas Bosco (second from right).

“When military veterans begin their transition to civilian life, many struggle with finding a career that has adequate resources to represent their interests and concerns,” said Kazmark, who works with Port Operations and is a Petty Officer 1st Class in the U.S. Navy.

Understanding the value of vets to the agency, the Port Authority recently launched its most comprehensive veterans’ recruitment plan ever, with the goal of U.S. military service vets making up 5 percent of the PA’s workforce by 2020. Adopted in December 2017, the new policy is expected to contribute greatly to the agency’s efforts to continually diversify the workplace.

The idea for PAVA surfaced in 2013, when Flanagan, now a Port Department employee and then a Port Authority Leadership Fellow, was working with the Human Resources and Marketing Departments to roll out a new veterans’ recruitment program. Although Flanagan isn’t a veteran, he was committed to helping vets join and thrive at the Port Authority.

“As we worked to improve this system, it became more obvious that the agency also needed an internal resource group for the growing number of veterans already working for the agency,” Flanagan said.

On November 8, 2017, after years of planning and preparation with assistance from Kazmark and Orlan, PAVA became a reality with a kick-off event at the Port Authority’s 4 World Trade Center headquarters.

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PAVA members gather for the kick-off meeting on November 8, 2017.

“The Port Authority is a great place for veterans to start their civilian careers because it allows you to be part of something bigger than yourself,” said Orlan, a retired U.S. Army captain who works with the Tunnels, Bridges & Terminals department.

Yesterday, the New York State Senate presented Orlan with the Liberty Medal, one of the highest civilian honors a New Yorker can receive. The award is given to individuals meriting special commendation for exceptional, heroic, or humanitarian acts and achievements on behalf of fellow New Yorkers. Orlan was honored for distinguished service while deployed as a scout platoon leader in Afghanistan.

“Many veterans feel a sense of missing purpose when they leave the military, but I think that the mission of this agency is a rewarding alternative because we work to achieve a greater good for the region,” he said.

Posted in Military, PAVA, Port Authority Veterans Association, Uncategorized, veterans, World Trade Center

The New Goethals Bridge: Complete and Open for Business

By Steve Coleman, Media Relations Staff

Nearly 90 years ago, when the Goethals Bridge became one of the region’s first two interstate vehicle crossings, it accommodated Model T Fords, pedestrians – who paid 5 cents to walk across the span – and horses, whose riders paid 25 cents to make the trip over the Arthur Kill between Elizabeth, N.J. and Staten Island.

Today, as the final span of the new $1.5 billion Goethals Bridge opened to traffic, it signaled the completion of a state-of-the-art crossing designed to accommodate modern vehicular traffic, everything from large SUVs to pickup trucks (which didn’t exist in 1928) – and much heavier traffic volumes, more than 90,000 vehicles a day.

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Goethals Bridge: then…

The new crossing is a far cry from the one built in the old days. Unlike the two 10-foot wide substandard lanes that were designed for vehicles in the 1920s and 1930s, the new bridge has three 12-foot standard width travel lanes in each direction, and 12-foot outer shoulders and five-foot inner shoulders on each of its twin spans.

The original bridge, which replaced ferries that previously transported people between the two states, was a steel truss cantilever design costing more than $7.2 million to build.  It was replaced by a new duel-span, cable-stayed twin bridge similar to the design of more modern bridges such as the Kosciuszko Bridge in Queens, which opened in 2017.

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…and now

While the old and new Goethals Bridges are vastly different, two similarities remain.  Tolls were collected from the day the original bridge first opened (until August 1970, they were collected in both directions). Until recent decades, pedestrians were allowed to cross it on foot. The new bridge also will provide pedestrian access – free of charge.

Posted in bridges, Goethals Bridge, Goethals Replacement Bridge, Staten Island bridges, Uncategorized

After 9/11, a Career Commitment to Aviation Security

By Joe Iorio, Media Relations Staff

In 2001, Jeanne Olivier had transferred into her 65th floor World Trade Center office to begin a new job with the Port Authority’s Aviation Department. Then 9/11 struck, and she realized her life from that day forward would be changed forever.

“People lost family members – friends, brothers, sisters, daughters. And I lost colleagues, many of whom I knew since I started with the Port Authority in 1984,” Olivier recalled. “So, from that moment, I planned to invest my life’s energy in aviation security, working to prevent anything like it from happening again.”

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Olivier delivering AAAE acceptance speech

Today, that investment is paying dividends. Olivier is the Port Authority’s assistant director of Aviation Security Operations, a woman whose drive and ability has earned her prestigious industry honors. The most recent is her April appointment as chair of the 5,700-member American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), the industry’s largest professional organization. She is only the sixth woman in its 90-year history to serve as chair.

In her Port Authority role, Olivier leads a multi-year Aviation Department capital program to reinforce the existing physical, operational and technological security infrastructure. She’s also responsible for working with local and federal authorities on policy and funding matters for aviation security, and ensuring Port Authority compliance with regulations.

Humble by nature and reluctant to blow her own horn, Olivier nevertheless has a powerful and inspiring story of dedication to public service, and how she took the lessons of 9/11 and put them to work on a global scale. Hoping to make a real difference after the attacks, Olivier volunteered to help rebuild war-damaged airports in Iraq in 2006-2007, after they were almost completely destroyed. She was the lead technical advisor on aviation facilities in the northern half of the country.

The strategic mission was to convince the Iraqi people of U.S. efforts to get the country and its people back on their feet in the midst of war by restoring a functioning aviation system. For her work in Iraq, Olivier received the U.S. State Department’s Meritorious Honor Award.

Reflecting on her time in Iraq, Olivier recalled witnessing atrocities and surviving her tour while staying in a temporary embassy, located in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces. She saw everything from mortar strikes on their camp to kidnappings of colleagues and public executions.  Yet Olivier considers the experience one of her most rewarding, as she also lived and worked beside courageous individuals willing to risk everything for their country.

“I sacrificed nothing, but I learned and saw examples of people who sacrificed everything,” she said. “I’m proud to have had the opportunity to serve in Iraq, but I’m also moved by the memories of everyday people doing extraordinary things to help others. I will never forget what I saw there.”

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Olivier pictured with AAE President and CEO Todd Hauptli

With these life-changing experiences having reshaped her career, Olivier plans to continue her work at the Port Authority, and as the AAAE chair, by encouraging others to get involved with aviation management and public service.  During her year-long appointment, she plans to address critical issues such as the current shortage of pilots, find more creative revenue sources for airports, and continue to promote AAAE’s educational programs.

“Over my 34 years at the Port Authority, dramatic social, political and technological advancements have redefined aviation’s importance to our society,” she said. “I hope to have an impact on future industry employees by setting enduring priorities to meet the exciting challenges of tomorrow and beyond.”

Posted in Uncategorized