By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff
New York City is at the epicenter of Pride Month 2019. It was selected to host the international celebration for LGBTQ+ rights, WorldPride, and it is home to the Stonewall Inn, where the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement is considered to have begun 50 years ago. Millions of travelers will be using the Port Authority’s airports, trains, bridges, and tunnels, and one group is leading the charge to make sure every single traveler feels welcome in the big city.
PA PRIDE, an Employee Resource Group (ERG) of the Port Authority, was formed to support the LGBTQ+ community and its allies both in the workplace and throughout the region. Additionally, they provide input for PA departments on best practices for creating safe and inclusive environments. PA PRIDE, which stands for People Respecting Individuality, Diversity & Equality, took off last year as the Port Authority sharpened its focus on ERGs and with the prospect of a historic Pride Month just around the corner.
The timing seemed perfect, but the group’s leaders were unsure if their fellow employees would get involved.
“People came to that first meeting and seemed to think, what is this?” Kevin O’Driscoll, PA PRIDE secretary and a business manager in the Aviation Department, remembers. “It’s hard to define what the group is until you have your first event or meeting and people start making connections.”
Slowly but surely, the ERG started gaining momentum. PA PRIDE became a crucial sounding board during the development and adoption of the Port Authority’s Transgender Inclusion and Non-Discrimination Policy. PA PRIDE has also collaborated with the agency’s Office of Ethics and Compliance on an online training program scenario that involves someone who identifies as gay.
This month, PA PRIDE officially kicked off Pride Month at the Port Authority at an event bringing together more than 100 attendees from across the agency, including Executive Director Rick Cotton and Chief of Human Capital Mary Lee Hannell, who both offered opening remarks.
Hannell, PA PRIDE’s executive sponsor, advocates for the group in an official capacity. On a personal level, issues involving LGBTQ+ rights affect her very deeply.
“I’m so proud of the tremendous amount of work PA PRIDE has put into making this month the biggest celebration of Pride in the agency’s history,” she said. “Over my 30 years here, it’s been incredible to see the agency’s commitment to diversity and inclusion grow. This year’s Pride Month at the Port Authority is no doubt a major milestone.”
O’Driscoll says that the Port Authority’s senior leaders were quick to embrace PA PRIDE’s ideas for Pride Month, which consisted of public displays of the agency’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. For the second year in a row, an exhibit at LaGuardia’s Terminal A educates passengers about the history of the LGBTQ+ movement in New York City, and “Gayviation,” a celebration of Aviation and LGBTQ+ Pride complete with a lip sync contest, is hosted at 4 World Trade Center.
Additionally, a new art installation “Live 4 Love” at the World Trade Center Oculus celebrates all types of love, and columns in the 9th Street PATH Station don vibrant rainbow colors. The Christopher Street PATH Station columns are wrapped as well.
June’s Pride events culminate at the historic Pride March down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, where PA PRIDE is heading up a Port Authority delegation to walk with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.
For PA PRIDE President Alexander Barrett, a senior economic analyst in the Aviation Department, the fact that the Port Authority is openly taking a stand on diversity and inclusion during Pride Month is extremely significant. “Visibility is important because it shows that our commitment to diversity is more than just a talking point,” he said. “It’s being put into action.”
Photo Credit: Krista Didzbalis & Jennifer Wilson