Port Authority Women on International Women’s Day

By Portfolio Editor Roz Hamlett

“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” Sojourner Truth, 1851

Elizabeth Colon raised a daughter while working progressively to advance through the ranks of the Port Authority. She somehow found time to complete her college degree along the way. Today, Colon, a supervisor in General Patron Services for the Tunnels, Bridges & Terminals department, understands fully the challenges of a woman striving for the top in an otherwise male-dominated profession.

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Elizabeth Colon (second from left) captivates her audience as she explains how she balanced her responsibilities as a single mom while working at the Port Authority.                             Photos by Mike Dombrowski, PA

“I had to show my daughter that you can do this, even though I’d been a single parent and I worked rotating shifts. So I missed Christmas and holidays sometimes,” said Colon, a 34-year PA employee.

Colon began as a toll collector, later working as a Holland Tunnel agent who had to do the dirty work of a mechanic. “I was also learning CPR.  I was learning firefighting. I was towing buses.  I was towing trucks,” she said. “I was doing all these things and all the while asking myself, ‘how is this happening?’ But I stuck with it. It was challenging for me, but I told myself I’m going to do this because I can do this, and I did it.”

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Colon was one of several senior PA women leaders who shared their experiences during a special International Women’s Day conference on Wednesday at Port Authority headquarters, an event featuring Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, a veteran public transportation executive and interim president and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

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Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, MTA interim president and CEO

“Women continue to face obstacles to professional success, institutional bias and the role that women take upon ourselves to strike the delicate balance between success in the workplace and a meaningful family life,” said Hakim. “Given that it’s 2017 and we haven’t yet achieved equal opportunity and equal pay for women, should we give up hope?  No. Should we celebrate that women are here and are integral members of the workplace?  Yes, yes and yes.”

Hakim recalled being approached by a tearful young engineer, a mother of two with a long commute, who was struggling and on the brink of giving up. She told Hakim she didn’t ever think she could juggle it successfully the way Hakim had.

“I said ‘whoa.’ Are we doing a disservice by appearing like it’s all easy.  It’s not,” she said. “A lot of things didn’t go right.  A lot of dinners didn’t get made.  A lot of lunches were forgotten.  But I am proud I’ve never left a kid on the sidewalk.”

The event was sponsored by the PA Women’s Council, which has been in existence for a year. The organization was created by PA assistant chief engineer Denise Berger, the president of the group, to empower women in their careers at the PA.

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Left to right PAWC leaders Cynthia Lindner, secretary; Carmen Rein, treasurer; Ronnie Hakim; Denise Berger, president and Janet Cox, vice president

As part of the event, Port Authority Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Dawson was given an award by Executive Director Pat Foye, honoring her service over the years to the agency.

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Left to right, COO Stephanie Dawson, Ronnie Hakim and Pat Foye, Executive Director

Eight panelists in all participated, including Evelyn Crespo, executive recruiter in Human Resources; Clarelle DeGraffe, the deputy director of PATH; Assistant Chief Gloria Frank of the Port Authority Police Department; Annesa Lau, a manager in the Office of Budget Performance and Analysis; Hilary McCarron, manager of Port Marketing; Amanda Rogers, an engineer in the Aviation Department, and Teterboro Airport General Manager Renee Spann.  Stephanie Quappe (not shown), diversity & inclusion program director in Human Resources, lead the panel discussion.

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Left to right Denise Berger, Amanda Rogers, Hilary McCarron, Elizabeth Colon, Gloria Frank, Evelyn Crespo, Clarelle DeGraffe (back), Annesa Lau (front), Renee Spann, Janet Cox and Stephanie Dawson

“Success doesn’t happen overnight,” said McCarron, “We’re all going to encounter adversity at some point in our careers. It’s how you handle it that defines you.”

 

For more information about the Port Authority Women’s Council contact pawomen@panynj.gov. For a link to the recording of the event visit http://enet/hrd

 

Posted in International Women's Day, PANYNJ, Pat Foye, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

PABT Culture Maven Brings Artistic Nourishment to Weary Travelers

By Portfolio Editor Roz Hamlett

Myron Johnson’s job title at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) doesn’t begin to hint at the impact he’s making on the lives of hundreds upon thousands of daily commuters.

Officially, he’s the junior operations supervisor. The reality is that Johnson is an influential behind-the-scenes go-getter with strong relationships in the arts and entertainment industry and a gift for convincing artists from Broadway, the New York Philharmonic and beyond to perform voluntarily on the PABT Performing Arts Stage.

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PABT’s hidden figure, Myron Johnson      Photo by Tony Gregory

“We’re not Carnegie Hall or the Metropolitan Opera, but that hasn’t stopped us from being a showcase for world-class music,” he said during a recent tour of the facility. “What more perfect place can there be to find an appreciative audience than at the world’s busiest bus terminal?”

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“Myron is incredibly unique. Pretty much every time I see him he’s pitching another idea to improve our customers’ commute,” said Diannae C. Ehler, General Manager of the PABT and the Lincoln Tunnel.  “He’s our treasure.”

Johnson left Dallas for New York City as a teenager, searching for opportunities in the entertainment industry that only NYC could offer. Ever since, he’s kept close to artists, nurturing relationships and building new ones.

Years before Johnson became the PABT culture maven he is today, however, he followed the same route to the terminal as television’s most famous bus driver, Ralph Kramden, immortalized in a bronze statue outside the terminal and played by Jackie Gleason in the American classic sitcom, The Honeymooners.  Except Johnson drove a New Jersey Transit bus.

After 9/11, Johnson was hired at PATH as a passenger information agent, a position for which he earned 80 letters of commendation for giving superior customer service. His first letter came from Alan Reiss, the current Director of World Trade Center Construction who worked then in PA aviation. A year later, Johnson joined the PABT.

Former PA Chief of Staff, Edmond Schorno, developed an early interest in Johnson and served as his friend and mentor. “He told me that one day I would be in the position to change the  very things that have happened to me on my journey into opportunities for others,” said Johnson.

And for the past 15 years, Johnson has been doing just that. Thanks to his outreach, the legendary photographer Chuck Stewart, who captured iconic shots of Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, Albert Einstein and many other all-time greats, had a one-man show before his death earlier this year. Michael Gaffney, Muhammad Ali’s one-time personal photographer, also exhibited recently.

But it’s Johnson’s work coordinating film projects, live media events and settling contractual disputes and location agreements between the Lincoln Tunnel, the PABT, major production companies and the New York and New Jersey film offices that enables him to rub shoulders with some of the world’s biggest stars and sports figures:  Ellen DeGeneres, Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Tyra Banks, Carmelo Anthony and, most recently, with Netflix celebs from Orange Is the New Black, to name a few.

Accompanying Johnson through the PABT itself is a bit like being with a celebrity. He’s on a first name basis with many bus terminal denizens, and while he goes about his daily routine, he has a warm greeting for everyone — commuters, bus drivers and business owners alike. In turn, people go out of their way to say hello and shake hands with him. Some even call him “Mayor.’

Johnson has a seat on both the Time Square Alliance and the Garment District, which gives him the platform from which to leverage resources with corporate neighbors and the surrounding community.

To maximize the benefits of PABT culture, Johnson has a simple philosophy. “The name of the game is that if you take care of the house, the house will take care of you. I try to come up with every conceivable way that the PABT can fully integrate with the community in ways that make win-wins for everyone,” he said.

Posted in Lincoln Tunnel, NYC, PABT, PANYNJ, Port Authority Bus Terminal, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority of NY/NJ, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

WTC PATH Station: Art Therapy, Hanging in Plain View

By Alana Calmi, Media Relations Staff

In the aftermath of 9/11, grieving New Yorkers found solace and support from the four corners of the earth – even in the remote Italian countryside, where a group of talented art students responded with their hearts and their hands to the devastation with a unique gift to the American people.

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The art work is displayed over Track 1 in the WTC PATH Station.

Today, that gift – a mosaic in the shape of a lightning bolt that comprises more than 1.4 million pieces and weighs more than a ton – hangs along Track 1 at the revitalized World Trade Center PATH facility, offering a burst of color to riders in a station otherwise bathed in white. Saetta Iridescente, as the piece is called and translates as “iridescent bolt of lightning,” was created by students at the Friuli School of Mosaic in Spilimbergo, Italy.

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Art students create Saetta Iridescente by working off the executive drawing of the piece.

A nearby plaque reads: “A positive energy is unleashed and bonds two people in a shared desire to overcome moments of horror, to move forward and build a peaceful future:” –a gift from the Autonomous Region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Italy) to the City of New York as a mark of gratitude and solidarity.

Glenn Guzi, the Port Authority’s program director for the World Trade Center, was on hand the day the artwork was first installed at one of the temporary PATH stations post-9/11, before being moved to Track 1 last year with the dedication of the Oculus at the WTC Transportation Hub.

“This beautiful piece of art is a reminder that we are all bonded together and are stronger when good people lift each other up,” said Guzi

The structure, 118 feet long and 12 feet high, took just 90 days to create and two weeks to install in 2004. It’s the handiwork of advanced art students under the guidance of school faculty members and overseen by artist Giulio Candussio, who was inspired to the unusual design while flipping through a book on the restoration of Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.

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Artist Giulio Candussio

Candussio envisioned a lightning bolt between Adam’s finger and the hand of God, and that energy could be represented by color. Students were assigned different portions of the mosaic, and each worked off an executive drawing that was then spliced for easier installation. The piece is composed of 55 individual sections assembled together.

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Many PATH riders who board trains on Track 1 are aware of the art on the wall, even if they are unaware of its special provenance.

“I take the PATH every day and rarely do I look around. But the art does add a nice pop of color in an otherwise bright-white station,” said one commuter from East Orange, N.J.

Posted in NYC, PANYNJ, PATH, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Uncategorized, World Trade Center, World Trade Center Transportation Oculus, WTC PATH station | Tagged , , , ,