By Alana Calmi, Media Relations Staff
LaGuardia Airport has long welcomed travelers to New York City with its iconic WELCOME TO NEW YORK sign along the airport’s perimeter. But, as the airport continues its ongoing redevelopment, it was clear the weathered and worn sign was in desperate need of a face lift.
“Everything was wrong with it, it was just getting old,” said Frank Sanfilippo, a LaGuardia maintenance supervisor and 36-year Port Authority veteran. Knowing full well the level of craftsmanship needed, Sanfilippo turned to George Campbell, who has worked at the Port Authority for 10 years on various maintenance projects
But the LaGuardia sign project has been his favorite. “I spent any down time I had working on this sign, perfecting it even though I was doing it freehand,” said Campbell, who spent hundreds of hours on the project. Work began in January 2018 and was completed in November. It is located next to Runway 13-31.
With a background in mechanical work but a talent for carpentry, Campbell’s years of experience can be seen in his handiwork, though he won’t take all the credit. “A lot of guys worked on this, too,” he said. “During lunchtime, I never took a full break because I wanted to work on it and made some other guys work on it with me.”
Installing the sign was a team effort for Unit 308 and several temporary employees, the LaGuardia team entrusted with its rehabilitation. “Especially with an assignment of this level, this department had to make everyone proud,” Campbell said.
The sign is fashioned from thousands of pounds of wood, 60 pieces of Plexiglas, 10 yards of concrete, 60 footings, 38 tons of asphalt, 45 gallons of paint and stain and more than 300 brackets to hold it in place. The letters are all four feet by eight feet, except the W and the M, which are seven feet wide. They are made of marine plywood, which can withstand extreme weather. All the letters and trim were painted and sealed followed by a quarter-inch of colored Plexiglas.
“The installation of this sign was bigger than what any of us expected,” Sanfilippo said. “What was out there before had no concrete, it was just coming out of the ground. There was no WELCOME TO NEW YORK sign for nearly two weeks—pilots began questioning the tower because they weren’t sure if they were at the right airport.”
The original stood for more than 30 years, but Sanfilippo predicts its replacement will last at least twice as long.
“A lot of guys were happy to work on this,” he said. “This is something that will last forever on this airport. We made that sign with a lot of love.”