By Portfolio Editor Roz Hamlett
Myron Johnson’s job title at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) doesn’t begin to hint at the impact he’s making on the lives of hundreds upon thousands of daily commuters.
Officially, he’s the junior operations supervisor. The reality is that Johnson is an influential behind-the-scenes go-getter with strong relationships in the arts and entertainment industry and a gift for convincing artists from Broadway, the New York Philharmonic and beyond to perform voluntarily on the PABT Performing Arts Stage.
“We’re not Carnegie Hall or the Metropolitan Opera, but that hasn’t stopped us from being a showcase for world-class music,” he said during a recent tour of the facility. “What more perfect place can there be to find an appreciative audience than at the world’s busiest bus terminal?”
“Myron is incredibly unique. Pretty much every time I see him he’s pitching another idea to improve our customers’ commute,” said Diannae C. Ehler, General Manager of the PABT and the Lincoln Tunnel. “He’s our treasure.”
Johnson left Dallas for New York City as a teenager, searching for opportunities in the entertainment industry that only NYC could offer. Ever since, he’s kept close to artists, nurturing relationships and building new ones.
Years before Johnson became the PABT culture maven he is today, however, he followed the same route to the terminal as television’s most famous bus driver, Ralph Kramden, immortalized in a bronze statue outside the terminal and played by Jackie Gleason in the American classic sitcom, The Honeymooners. Except Johnson drove a New Jersey Transit bus.
After 9/11, Johnson was hired at PATH as a passenger information agent, a position for which he earned 80 letters of commendation for giving superior customer service. His first letter came from Alan Reiss, the current Director of World Trade Center Construction who worked then in PA aviation. A year later, Johnson joined the PABT.
Former PA Chief of Staff, Edmond Schorno, developed an early interest in Johnson and served as his friend and mentor. “He told me that one day I would be in the position to change the very things that have happened to me on my journey into opportunities for others,” said Johnson.
And for the past 15 years, Johnson has been doing just that. Thanks to his outreach, the legendary photographer Chuck Stewart, who captured iconic shots of Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, Albert Einstein and many other all-time greats, had a one-man show before his death earlier this year. Michael Gaffney, Muhammad Ali’s one-time personal photographer, also exhibited recently.
But it’s Johnson’s work coordinating film projects, live media events and settling contractual disputes and location agreements between the Lincoln Tunnel, the PABT, major production companies and the New York and New Jersey film offices that enables him to rub shoulders with some of the world’s biggest stars and sports figures: Ellen DeGeneres, Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Tyra Banks, Carmelo Anthony and, most recently, with Netflix celebs from Orange Is the New Black, to name a few.
Accompanying Johnson through the PABT itself is a bit like being with a celebrity. He’s on a first name basis with many bus terminal denizens, and while he goes about his daily routine, he has a warm greeting for everyone — commuters, bus drivers and business owners alike. In turn, people go out of their way to say hello and shake hands with him. Some even call him “Mayor.’
Johnson has a seat on both the Time Square Alliance and the Garment District, which gives him the platform from which to leverage resources with corporate neighbors and the surrounding community.
To maximize the benefits of PABT culture, Johnson has a simple philosophy. “The name of the game is that if you take care of the house, the house will take care of you. I try to come up with every conceivable way that the PABT can fully integrate with the community in ways that make win-wins for everyone,” he said.