World Trade Center Menorah: A Shining Light Returns Home

By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff

Almost seven years ago, Port Authority Police Lt. Scot Pomerantz set out on a mission to have the Hanukkah menorah returned to the rebuilt World Trade Center site.

Before 9/11, two identical 7½ foot menorahs created by Michael and Bonnie Berkowicz were fixtures in the Twin Towers every Hanukkah season, a shining light for all who passed through the lobbies during the eight days of the annual Jewish holiday. But the menorahs’ lights were extinguished forever in the collapse of the towers.

Fast forward to 2011. Pomerantz, president of the Shomrim Society of the Port Authority, decided to bring the light back to the World Trade Center. It was a challenging task. All that was left of the previous menorahs were photos and articles that appeared in The Diary, at the time the newspaper of the Port Authority.

Original Menorah at the WTC lobby

One of the original World Trade Center menorahs

With so little to go on, Pomerantz and his Shomrim Society team turned once again to Bonnie and Michael Berkowicz, the creators of the original menorahs, to develop a new design. For Pomerantz, it was important that the designers incorporate a piece of World Trade Center steel in the new menorah, to represent a symbol of resiliency.

Once the new menorah was created, the next challenge was finding a public space that could accommodate it every December. That turned out to be the World Trade Center Transportation Hub Oculus, where hundreds of thousands of people pass through each day.

Yesterday, for the first time since 9/11, a menorah was lit at the World Trade Center site to mark Hanukkah. The donation from the Berkowicz family is located on the east side of the Oculus on the C2 level and will remain up until January 7.

We now have a beautiful new WTC that stands as a symbol of resilience to those who tried but failed to change our way of life,” Pomerantz said. “Our menorah, like the new WTC, is reborn, like the Hanukkah story. We wanted to make sure all who see this menorah remember the days when the original menorah stood in freedom.

Groupp of Shomrim Society

Lt. Scot Pomerantz (center, back row) stands with other members of the Shomrim Society

The ceremony yesterday was both celebratory and reflective. Port Authority Chaplain Rabbi Mandy Carlbach blessed the menorah, followed by the lighting of the candles by members of the Shomrim Society.

The design of the menorah is meant to show that individuals, as individual threads, may be weak, but when woven together as a united community, they become strong,” said Michael Berkowicz. “Ceremonial objects like menorahs have, for thousands of years, been used to enhance and bring meaning to celebrations, and this Hanukkah menorah is one of these special objects.

Co-creator of the new menorah Michael Berkowicz (left), Director of WTC Operations Hugh McCann and Lt. Pomerantz
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New Goethals Bridge Nears Finish Line

By Steve Coleman, Media Relations Staff

Under late night cover of darkness, a 130-foot-long, 157,600-pound concrete girder was transported this week across the eastbound span of the new Goethals Bridge – signaling the latest and perhaps most important milestone in the construction of the first new bridge built by the Port Authority since 1931.

Exactly 680 days after the first girder – an enormous precast concrete structure used for building bridges – was paraded across the span on large custom-made motorized dollies, the 192nd and last New York-side girder made the trip on December 7.

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“These girders are the backbone of this critical bi-state crossing, providing support for the new bridge deck and the related infrastructure,” said Lou Franco, the senior project manager for the Goethals Bridge Replacement Program.  “Now that all the New York girders have been delivered, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel toward the completion of this project by the middle of next year.”

Franco has spent many days and nights on the crossing over the life of the project, dealing with the challenging logistics of building a new bridge while maintaining traffic on the old structure – and most recently on the eastbound half of the new structure that was opened in June.

During the past two years, crews have been tasked with moving and installing girders as long as 175 feet.  The largest of the girders weighed in at 231,000 pounds. Before even reaching the bridge, the girders had to be trucked across Interstate 78 from the manufacturing plant in Cressona, Pa., about 125 miles from the Goethals.

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Once complete, the state-of-the-art bridge will have three 12-foot lanes along with 12-foot outer shoulders and five-foot inner shoulders on each of its twin spans.  The new structure also will feature a 10-foot shared use path for bicyclists and pedestrians.  The twin spans also will preserve a corridor for future mass transit between the structures.

With the new structure nearing completion, crews are diligently at work deconstructing the old crossing, which has served as a lifeline linking Staten Island to Elizabeth, N.J. for 89 years. In the coming weeks, the bridge’s signature steel truss structure will be lowered onto a barge and removed from the site, marking the end of a special era in Port Authority history.

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A Christmas Spectacular for Thousands of Kids at JFK

Story and photos by Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff

During the holiday season, Delta Air Lines will be shuttling hundreds of thousands of passengers from John F. Kennedy Airport to destinations all over the globe.

But one special passenger arrived this morning to meet and greet thousands of special children on a magical day in Queens. The Macy’s Santa Claus arrived not with a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, but via a Delta 767 jet bound from the North Pole. From the plane, it was on to a train that enabled Santa to take a spin around the colorfully decorated Hangar 19 at JFK.

As has been tradition for more than 40 years, Santa was the star attraction at the Community Mayors Operation Santa event held in the JFK hangar this morning under the watchful eyes of dozens of Port Authority staff. More than 3,000 children from New York City communities with special needs were entertained this year after eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jolly Old St. Nick. They were bused into the facility and exited their buses singing along with the Christmas carols being played in the facility.

“This event makes the days of all of these children brighter and that is more than enough to bring tears to my eyes. At the end of the day you know you’ve done something good,” said Shelley Della Rocca, the volunteer president and CEO of Community Mayors whose father, Dominick, began running special events for kids in need 65 years ago.

It was a remarkably festive event, featuring Macy’s balloons, volunteers and children dressed as clowns, parading cartoon characters, and marching bands that included the Port Authority Police Department Pipe Band and Honor Guard. In keeping with the spirit of the day, Fernando Garcia, a student at P.S. 993 in Floral Park, Queens, asked Santa for his very own airplane for Christmas. And he wished Santa, Mrs. Claus and all of their friends a Merry Christmas.

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Community Mayors is a not-for-profit organization that continues to help children with disabilities and host special events for them, relying on thousands of volunteers from uniformed service organizations, business and government, including the Port Authority, to carry out its mission.

“The continued success of Operation Santa at JFK for over 40 years already speaks volumes,” said JFK Airport General Manager Michael Moran. “It is a testament to the dedication and collaboration among our airport community, federal partners, and elected officials in supporting children with special needs during the holidays.”

“Delta is committed to giving back to the communities in which we live, work and serve,” added Stephanie Baldwin, Delta’s Vice President-Airport Operations at JFK. “We’re proud to be a part of this holiday tradition.”

The event also underscored the special relationship that JFK, Delta and the Community Mayors maintain with Macy’s. “It is incredibly rewarding for everyone at Macy’s to extend the magic and bring the joyous spirit of Santa to so many of New York City’s children with special needs,” said Susan Tercero, Group Vice President of Macy’s Branded Entertainment.

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