The Conductor Behind the ‘Crazy’ PATH Announcements

By Joe Iorio, Media Relations Staff

On a recent afternoon at PATH’s World Trade Center Station, a Newark-bound train rolled by the platform around 3 p.m. and slowed to a complete stop when a loud and familiar voice sounded over the train’s PA system.

“Let ALL the people off the train! Let all the people off the train first! Let ‘em off,” The voice commanded. “For those of you boarding the train, if you have a book bag, take your book bag off before getting on the train. NO ONE wants to get hit by your book bag on a crowded train!”

Waiting passengers who recognized the distinctive voice immediately grinned.

After everyone on the train disembarked, a medium-sized conductor sporting clear safety glasses and a conductor’s hat adorned with pins approached. He had a long, reddish looking beard, was wearing black gloves and introduced himself as Mike Allen.

Mike Allen

For regular PATH travelers, Allen, a Brooklyn native, has been “performing” on the Newark-World Trade Center line for 11 years now. Since the beginning, he has brightened the day of countless passengers who travel on his trains. Recently, he took Portfolio along for a ride, part of his normal 2:30 – 10:30 p.m. shift on the Newark-WTC line.

“Since I was a kid, I always knew that I wanted to work at a railroad in some capacity,” he said. “So, in 2007, I placed my name on both the MTA and PATH conductor wait lists, but was offered employment by the Port Authority first. When I got the call from PATH, I was so happy to leave my previous job at a hardware store – it was great.”

Allen frequently tells people that, for him, every day at work is completely different. “I love PATH,” he said. “Working the railroad is great to see what life in the city is all about. Different people from all over ride these trains and it’s a fun experience to interact with them.”

Here’s a video of Mike’s signature announcement, taking place as the train reaches its final Newark Penn Station destination:

There’s something unique about Allen’s lively voice, word-selection and calculated pauses that give the feeling of a theatrical performance rather than repetitious train announcements.

Over the years, these unusual announcements have brought him a level of local stardom. People from everywhere recognize and engage him in conversation, which is rather uncommon for most PATH conductors. One time, while walking down 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge with his wife, he said a group of guys spotted him and thought he looked like “the guy behind those crazy PATH announcements.”

Guilty as charged.

Recently, a passenger asked him to record her personal voicemail tape on her behalf. He also said it’s common for passengers to ask for a picture, or to record his routine. Some have even posted their videos on YouTube. All in a day’s work, he says.

So why does he do it? To “spice up” the daily commute, of course.

“Commuting stinks,” he said. “No one enjoys doing it every day, but you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s even worse when you hear boring train announcements, so I try to give people something different. I think it’s fun.”

Here’s a video of his arrival at the World Trade Center, the final leg of the journey:

Posted in PATH, PATH customer service, Uncategorized, WTC PATH station

After Years in Flight, Newark Liberty GM Opts for a Ground Stop

Diane Papaianni

By Cheryl Albiez, Media Relations Staff

Early in her Port Authority career, Diane Papaianni had a chance elevator encounter with Sue Baer, a revered veteran airport general manager and Papaianni’s professional role model. Baer, who would become the agency’s first woman Director of Aviation, asked her younger colleague where she saw herself in the next few years.

“Running an airport, like you did,” Papaianni replied with a laugh.

“Well, we better start getting you ready, then,” said Baer.

Through the support of mentors like Baer and a talent for leadership in aviation, Papaianni achieved her dream, becoming general manager of New Jersey airports – Newark Liberty International and Teterboro airports – in 2016. Today, after an accomplished 39-year PA career, Papaianni is flying off into retirement.

Her departure coincides with the end of Women’s History Month, and Papaianni has been a strong example of the progress women have made in key senior leadership roles at the Port Authority. She was the second woman (after Baer) to run New Jersey’s biggest and busiest airport. The Aviation Department and the airports have been home to many talented women who’ve been successful at the highest levels.

“Don’t be afraid to set your goals high, because if there is something you want to do, you know there are definitely opportunities and ways to make it happen,” she said, citing her professional philosophy that guided her nearly four decades.

Untitled-1Papaianni came a long way from her first PA job as an entry-level secretary in the Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals department, and held various roles within other agency departments before switching to Newark Liberty in the late 1980’s – a move that served as her introduction to the Aviation industry.

At Newark, Papaianni held various positions with increasing responsibility — from airport operations, to supervising AirTrain operations, overseeing customer service and managing Terminal B’s international facility. In 2011, she was promoted into the position of manager of airport operations, in 2014, she was named deputy general manager, before being appointed general manager two years later. 

Managing an airport in one of the most complicated air spaces in the world is not an easy task. She handled presidential visits, hurricanes, blizzards, power outages and celebrity sightings, which have become a routine part of the job for Papaianni and her Newark Liberty family. Papaianni says she enjoyed the challenge, crediting another mentor – current Aviation Director Huntley Lawrence, who she succeeded in several positions at Newark Liberty – with providing support and contributing to her success.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of finding the right mentor, and developing a road map that will you put you in a position to achieve your career goals,” she said.

Her tenure, PA colleagues and friends say, has been a lesson in helping others achieve their career objectives.

Former Port Authority Aviation Director Thomas L. Bosco said that “Papaianni has had a brilliant career, leaving behind a legacy of superb leadership and professionalism.”

“Diane has been an inspiration to both female and male leaders in our airports. She leads with both passion and compassion. She will be greatly missed,” said Lysa Scully, Papaianni’s long-time colleague and the current general manager of LaGuardia Airport.


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Posted in Uncategorized

PAPD Pipe Band Brings Musical Order to March Madness

By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff

The month of March is synonymous with March Madness, the first day of spring and — for this year at least — a succession of powerful winter nor’easters. Add to that March mix the Port Authority Police Department’s Pipes and Drums band, whose distinctive sound is being heard at numerous events across the region this month.

The band performed live on March 16 on NBC’s Today Show as part of its St. Patrick’s Day segment, and also entertained customers at Stewart International Airport and at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. And they marched down Fifth Avenue during the St. Patrick’s Day parade and performed at an event in Pearl River, N.Y.

Video by Media Relations Staff Rudy King

Formed in 1979, the band made its public debut in 1981, welcoming home the Americans who had been held hostage during the Iran hostage crisis. Since then, the band, which today numbers 25 members, has grown to include civilian employees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as well as members of neighboring outside police and emergency service agencies.

116thA Graduation (00000003)

“It’s an honor to be part of this pipe band, to be able to represent the men and women of this department and lead them up Fifth Avenue on St Patrick’s Day,” said Port Authority Police Officer Brian Ahern, who also serves as the band’s Pipe Major.  “There is a long history between bagpipe bands and police departments. This band’s job is to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this department and to honor their memories.”

During its colorful history, the band has starred in many high-profile events besides the Iranian hostage welcome. They include:

  • Being the host pipe band of National Police Week in 2011
  • Playing for Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Ground Zero in 2008
  • Greeting the 2011 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants at Newark Liberty International Airport
  • Performing at the opening ceremonies of 2017 President’s Cup Golf Tournament
  • Performing at the funeral of Medal of Honor Recipient Nicholas Oresko in 2013
  • Annual appearances at Operation Santa for special needs children at JFK Airport every December
  • Annual performances at commemoration services for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and September 11 attacks

“Our most important job is playing for those brothers and sisters that have left us too soon while a member of this department, which sadly, we have done every year,” said Port Authority Police Officer Matt Westfield, who serves as the band’s manager.

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Posted in PAPD, Port Authority, Uncategorized