PATH’s Pine

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

If you thought you saw a Christmas tree in a PATH tunnel on the Hoboken-33rd Street line, it wasn’t your imagination. There really is a tree, at what’s known as Caisson 3, about 3,000 feet from Hoboken Station.


A PATH employee putting up this year’s tree

Propped up seven feet off the ground by a wooden timber and attended to by various members of PATH’s Signals Division throughout the holiday season, the PATH tunnel tree is a decades-old tradition — one of the Port Authority’s most distinctive holiday displays, if one of its best-kept secrets to the public at large.

The tale of the Christmas tunnel tree starts in the 1950s, when signal repairman Joe Wojitowicz decided to put some Christmas lights up in the window of the Signal Room located near the tree’s current spot. Passengers and employees alike were delighted by the sight of the holiday cheer in an otherwise dim tunnel, so he continued to decorate the room year after year. The tree became his pride and joy, and has been a holiday revelation for Hoboken-33rd Street riders ever since.

Over the years, various members of PATH’s Signals Division have shared the responsibility of finding, erecting and adorning the tree.

“Nothing prevents us from putting the tree up each year,” said Brian Hodgkinson, Chief Signals Maintenance Supervisor. “Even during Superstorm Sandy, the tree still went up.”

The tree tradition has endured despite an early issue that nearly derailed it. In 1963, just a few years after its debut, it was brought to Wojitowicz’s attention that the lights were causing the trainmasters who guide PATH trains some confusion. It looked like the tradition was going to have to end in order to continue assuring PATH riders’ safety.

But in a seeming twist of fate, a loose piece of concrete fell from the ceiling outside the signal room some months later. In response, PATH’s Ways and Structures Division built a large, floor-to-ceiling wooden timber, which the Signals Division quickly discovered could support an entire Christmas tree. And a new location for the Christmas decoration was born. All was merry and bright again along the Hoboken-33rd Street line.

The tunnel tree has become part of a special annual holiday tradition for the Port Authority – one that’s in the company of the PATH holiday poster contest and a variety of Santa visits and menorah lighting’s across the agency’s facilities.

PATH signal maintainers are working hard to both keep the tracks clear and the holiday spirit alive across New York and New Jersey. So next time you’re riding the PATH through Hoboken this season, look out the window. You might just see a piece of history.

Posted in Uncategorized

Newark Liberty’s Odete Cunha Serves Up a Jersey State of Mind

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff 

A new Jersey Shore is coming to Newark – no, not the one with JWoww and Snookie. This one’s in Newark Airport, complete with a fish market, wooden picnic tables, and sea blue walls to transport passengers to one of the state’s most popular destinations.

The recently opened Jersey by the Shore food hall, along with Garden State and Ironbound-themed joints at Newark Airport’s Terminal B, is part of a massive restaurant and retail upgrade the Port Authority is implementing across its airports to enhance travelers’ experiences. And the woman behind it all, Odete Cunha, is no stranger to delivering customer experience upgrades at the bustling New Jersey hub.


Cunha has always wanted to work in an airport, though when she started with the Port Authority 25 years ago in the Comptroller’s Department, it wasn’t clear that was where she’d end up. But her people skills, accounting background, and top-notch organization brought her up to her current position, Newark Liberty’s Concessions Manager, where she’s been for 12 years now.

She’s in charge of developing new restaurant and retail opportunities across Newark Airport, no small task for one of the nation’s busiest airports. On any given day, she could be meeting with terminal operators, restaurant operators, a construction company, or her Port Authority colleagues in the Customer Experience unit of the agency’s Aviation Department.

“It takes a village to run a successful concessions program at an airport,” Cunha said. “Not to mention, we’re making all these upgrades to the airport while the airport is still operating.”


A section of the redesigned concessions area

Before opening the food halls, Cunha managed several other major customer service initiatives at Newark Airport. Most recently, with Terminal B’s concessions manager Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), her team piloted AtYourGate, a new dining app that delivers orders directly to passengers’ gates. She also participated in the negotiations for the selection of OTG, Terminal C’s food and beverage operator, to develop and operate new restaurants at the terminal, which brought in iPads as a tech-savvy way to order food.

Cunha says she loves the sense of satisfaction that comes with finishing a big project. The opening of the New Jersey-inspired food halls, along with many other initiatives, required her to review surveys on passenger behavior and food preferences to understand how to best serve them. She also met regularly with stakeholders, such as URW’s operations, design, and marketing team, restaurant operators and Terminal B facility staff to incorporate everyone’s vision.

But perhaps the most fun part of the whole process is participating in the redevelopment of the new design, layout, and aesthetics of each New Jersey-themed dining area.

“We wanted a cohesive vision in developing these food halls,” Cunha said. “We added things like natural materials and greenery to give passengers a sense of place, so they can experience all the great things New Jersey has to offer from the moment they enter the airport.”

In the Jersey by the Shore area, travelers will find beach-inspired favorites like Malone’s Fish Market, Little Tony’s Pizzeria and Firehouse Subs. In the Ironbound district, passengers can try a diversity of local flavors from Piattino’s, StrEat, and other restaurants. In the Garden State oasis, travelers will have the chance to try food from New Jersey-born restaurants such as the famed Cake Boss, Salsarita’s, and Tony + Benny’s Pizza Parlor. Plus, Budweiser Brewhouse offers a local beer garden setting just blocks from Newark’s flagship Anheuser-Busch brewery.

For a New Jersey native who grew up flying out of Newark Airport, the opening of these New Jersey-themed food halls is an especially proud moment.

“I’m so excited for our travelers to experience my home state in this way,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without our Port Authority team.”

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Posted in Newark Liberty International Airport, Uncategorized

PATH & Jersey City: 30 Years of Holiday Cheer

By Krista Didzbalis and Scott Ladd, Media Relations Staff

Great Port Authority traditions often start with a simple idea.

Such was the case with the annual PATH Holiday Poster Contest. It was 30 years ago this year when Myron Hurwitz, a Port Authority customer service manager, approached Jersey City school officials with a suggestion. Hurwitz had seen the artwork of Jersey City students at local art exhibitions, and thought they deserved a bigger platform for their talents – and a way to help bring holiday cheer to PATH riders.

After discussions involving PATH and Ann Marley and Nancy Healey from the Jersey City Visual and Performing Arts program, a holiday tradition was born. The first winner was Laura Hudak, at the time a first-grader at Jersey City’s PS 38.


The first-ever winner: PS 38 first-grader Laura Hudak, age 6, circa 1989

PATH and Jersey City marked the 30-year milestone with their annual ceremony, held at PATH’s Journal Square headquarters on Thursday, December 5, to unveil the 2019 prize winners. More than six million passengers riding the PATH this winter season will enjoy decorative artwork displayed in stations and rail cars, bringing a special feeling of joy and helping passengers find their true holiday spirit.

It’s a different PATH than when the contest debuted. Daily ridership numbers then stood at about 201,000 a day in 1989. Current ridership on average is closer to 300,000 on weekdays. New, modern stations, facilities and services are in place or in the pipeline as part of the ongoing effort to improve the commute for PATH customers.


And this year’s grand prize winner, courtesy of sixth-grader Lawrence Ballesteros

But the more things change, the more one of the agency’s enduring traditions remains the same.

“This has been a wonderful partnership between PATH and the Jersey City community for 30 years, something we look forward to every year,” said PATH’s Linda Doss, who has directed the event since 2010. “We’re thrilled to be able to work with our friends at the Jersey City Board of Education on the holiday poster contest, and to recognize these talented young artists.”

The contest has evolved over the years. Initially designed for a single winner drawn from entries submitted by kindergarten through 8th grade students, it expanded to three age groups with one grand prize winner selected from the three category winners. Sixth-grader Lawrence Ballesteros from M.S. 7 was awarded the top prize this season for his depiction of a PATH train traveling through a holiday wreath. More than 500 students participated this year.

Marley, who was there at the beginning and now serves as Director of Visual and Performing Arts for the Jersey City school system, says the contest brings out the best in her students.

“The beauty of creating and sharing art is two-fold,” she said. “For the artist, it is the sheer joy of bringing your ideas, dreams, and hopes into an actual piece of art. The second experience of sheer joy is what the artist is able to make others see in their creation.”


Category winners Polina Sobolev, Lawrence Ballesteros and Caidence Ramirez

Posted in PATH, Uncategorized