Elite PAPD Officer is Livin’ the Dream

By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff

When Port Authority Police Officer Victoria Berardi was a young girl, she had far different aspirations than most other children her age. Many kids envision becoming ballerinas or baseball stars. Berardi dreamed of being on a SWAT team.

Those dreams have now come true. Berardi recently graduated from the New York Police Department Service Specialized Training School, paving the way for her appointment as the only woman currently serving on the Port Authority’s Police Emergency Service (PAPD ESU) team. She’s just the second woman to earn a spot with the elite Port Authority unit.

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“Being the only woman on the team is something that I’m accustomed to,” said Berardi. “At a young age I always participated in childhood sports with boys. Because of this, I’ve never thought much about being the only female.”

For seven months, Berardi received high-level training in how to handle active shooters, terrorist attacks, hostage situations, hazardous material, emotionally distressed people and vehicle extrications. Along with the rest of the PAPD ESU team, she is now tactically ready to handle incidents that present significant risks to others.

“Officer Berardi was handpicked to be a part of the agency’s Counterterrorism Unit because she served as a role model for other police officers,” said Assistant Chief Steve Rotolo, head of the Port Authority Police Department Counterterrorism Unit. “Her progression to the department’s most elite unit was a natural fit.”

Berardi comes from a tight-knit family, with three older brothers and an older sister. Her father and eldest brother worked in the U.S. Army and her mother was a nurse, so it was natural that Berardi chose a career path where she could be of service to people.

As she got older, Berardi’s parents instilled in her that she could achieve whatever she wanted, and that her gender didn’t matter. She obtained a degree in Psychology from Bloomfield College and became an Alzheimer’s Program Director at the Genesis HealthCare Facility, before getting an opportunity to begin a career in law enforcement as a New Jersey State Corrections Officer.

In 2013, the PAPD made the call Berardi had been hoping to receive for years. For the next five years, she worked in different PAPD commands before deciding to apply to the department’s Counterterrorism Unit, where she got to work with her brother, John. After a year of training, she began the process of joining the PAPD ESU team.

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Aside from her police accomplishments, Berardi enjoys surfing (although she says she’s not very good at it), with her wife, who serves as a trooper with the New Jersey State Police.

“I consider myself to be extremely lucky in being able to accomplish this dream and I hope to continue to enhance my training and education to be the best I could be in the field,” she said.

Posted in NY/NJ region, NYC, NYPD, PAPD, police history, Port Authority, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Port Authority of NY/NJ, Port Authority Police Department, Uncategorized

A Sign of Progress at LaGuardia

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.

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George Campbell places the stem of the apple on the new sign

“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.

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Campbell and Maintenance Supervisor Frank Sanfilippo

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.”

Posted in air travel, airport history, airports, LaGuardia Airport, LGA, New York, Port Authority, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Queens, transportation, Uncategorized

Lessons of the Sully ‘Miracle,’ 10 Years Later

By Cheryl Albiez, Media Relations Staff

Northeast of the George Washington Bridge, a plane at an altitude of 3,000 feet directly above the Bronx encountered a flock of Canada geese shortly after takeoff from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009. US Airways Flight 1549 lost all engine power, and returning to the airport or diverting to another was not a viable option. 

With only 900 feet of bridge clearance and without an engine thrust, pilots Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided the Airbus A320-214 onto the Hudson River. All 150 passengers and five crew members aboard were rescued, in what would become known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

In the ensuing 10 years, the Port Authority has worked diligently to continue to develop mitigation plans and risk-management strategies that minimize the possibility of severe and highly damaging bird strikes, of the kind that disabled Flight 1549.

The Port Authority is not just focused on the safety of the traveling public, but also the safety of the communities that surround its facilities, specifically the airports where planes soar above dense populations of people. The major airports are located in the bustling New York metropolitan area, where millions of people live, work and visit.

The agency maintains a qualified team of wildlife biologists and units that monitor, relocate and protect against wildlife hazards and bird strikes at all of its airports: LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, New York Stewart International and Teterboro. Chief Wildlife Biologist Laura Francoeur and Senior Wildlife Biologist Jeff Kolodzinski work with other wildlife biologists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on mitigation projects across all five airports.

The agency’s integrated wildlife hazard management programs reduces on-airport bird habitats, limits standing water and minimizes food sources. Efforts include habitat and construction management, as well as involvement in research projects to track wildlife movements, diets and nesting, and grass height management. Tools used to monitor and manage wildlife range from visual and auditory deterrents, fencing, netting and spikes to lasers, traps and bird relocations. Examples of the strategies used to combat wildlife hazards are illustrated by CNN, shown here.

Wildlife strike numbers fluctuate from year to year, due to factors such as weather, reporting and changes in wildlife populations.  Among the most hazardous species are the herring gull, osprey and Canada goose. The hazard ranking is based on the frequency of strikes with a species, the severity of damage caused, bird size and the chance that multiple birds will be struck – flocking species versus non-flocking species.  The most frequently struck species tend to be smaller birds, rarely resulting in damage.

“Knowing the difference between the species that are frequently struck versus species that are more likely to result in damaging strikes helps us to focus management resources more effectively,” Francoeur said. “For example, our habitat management program focuses on making the airport as unattractive to wildlife as possible.  We limit the food, cover, and water that may attract them. Once they are on the airport, we have many different tools and strategies to deter and disperse wildlife.”

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Additional efforts include a bird relocation program through a partnership with the Port Authority, United Airlines and  Audubon International, as well as working with community volunteers and others to humanely trap, relocate and resettle raptors such as hawks, falcons and owls at welcoming suitable golf course habitats, where the species are more likely to thrive.

Posted in air travel, airport history, airports, aviation, aviation geeks, Chesley Sullenberger, history, Hudson River, LaGuardia Airport, LGA, movie buffs, New York, NY/NJ region, NYC, PANYNJ, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Port Authority of NY/NJ, Sully, Uncategorized | Tagged