Port Authority Shows Its Pride

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

New York City is at the epicenter of Pride Month 2019. It was selected to host the international celebration for LGBTQ+ rights, WorldPride, and it is home to the Stonewall Inn, where the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement is considered to have begun 50 years ago. Millions of travelers will be using the Port Authority’s airports, trains, bridges, and tunnels, and one group is leading the charge to make sure every single traveler feels welcome in the big city.

PA PRIDE, an Employee Resource Group (ERG) of the Port Authority, was formed to support the LGBTQ+ community and its allies both in the workplace and throughout the region. Additionally, they provide input for PA departments on best practices for creating safe and inclusive environments. PA PRIDE, which stands for People Respecting Individuality, Diversity & Equality, took off last year as the Port Authority sharpened its focus on ERGs and with the prospect of a historic Pride Month just around the corner.


(l-r) PA PRIDE Treasurer Chris Wolff, Secretary Kevin O’Driscoll, PA Chief of Human Capital Mary Lee Hannell (executive sponsor), President Alexander Barrett and Communications Chair Shannon Gates.

The timing seemed perfect, but the group’s leaders were unsure if their fellow employees would get involved.

“People came to that first meeting and seemed to think, what is this?” Kevin O’Driscoll, PA PRIDE secretary and a business manager in the Aviation Department, remembers. “It’s hard to define what the group is until you have your first event or meeting and people start making connections.”

Slowly but surely, the ERG started gaining momentum. PA PRIDE became a crucial sounding board during the development and adoption of the Port Authority’s Transgender Inclusion and Non-Discrimination Policy. PA PRIDE has also collaborated with the agency’s Office of Ethics and Compliance on an online training program scenario that involves someone who identifies as gay.

This month, PA PRIDE officially kicked off Pride Month at the Port Authority at an event bringing together more than 100 attendees from across the agency, including Executive Director Rick Cotton and Chief of Human Capital Mary Lee Hannell, who both offered opening remarks.

Hannell, PA PRIDE’s executive sponsor, advocates for the group in an official capacity. On a personal level, issues involving LGBTQ+ rights affect her very deeply.

“I’m so proud of the tremendous amount of work PA PRIDE has put into making this month the biggest celebration of Pride in the agency’s history,” she said. “Over my 30 years here, it’s been incredible to see the agency’s commitment to diversity and inclusion grow. This year’s Pride Month at the Port Authority is no doubt a major milestone.” 

O’Driscoll says that the Port Authority’s senior leaders were quick to embrace PA PRIDE’s ideas for Pride Month, which consisted of public displays of the agency’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. For the second year in a row, an exhibit at LaGuardia’s Terminal A educates passengers about the history of the LGBTQ+ movement in New York City, and “Gayviation,” a celebration of Aviation and LGBTQ+ Pride complete with a lip sync contest, is hosted at 4 World Trade Center.

Additionally, a new art installation “Live 4 Love” at the World Trade Center Oculus celebrates all types of love, and columns in the 9th Street PATH Station don vibrant rainbow colors. The Christopher Street PATH Station columns are wrapped as well.



9th Street PATH Station

June’s Pride events culminate at the historic Pride March down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, where PA PRIDE is heading up a Port Authority delegation to walk with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.

For PA PRIDE President Alexander Barrett, a senior economic analyst in the Aviation Department, the fact that the Port Authority is openly taking a stand on diversity and inclusion during Pride Month is extremely significant. “Visibility is important because it shows that our commitment to diversity is more than just a talking point,” he said. “It’s being put into action.”

Photo Credit: Krista Didzbalis & Jennifer Wilson


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The New Bayonne: Bridge to the Modern Age of Mobility

Story by Ryan Stolz, Photos by Krista Didzbalis, Media Relations Staff

When it first opened on November 15, 1931, the Bayonne Bridge was such a novelty that 17,000 motorists – nearly double today’s daily traffic volume – couldn’t wait to make the trek between Bayonne and Staten Island. On top of those who drove over the crossing, an additional 7,000 pedestrians paid a nickel to walk across the spa. Back then, that was the equivalent of 12-ounce bottle of Coke or a movie ticket.

The bridge opening continued the Port Authority’s trend to build vehicle crossings (the others being the Goethals Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing) that linked Staten Island to New Jersey at the start of the Great Depression.  Previously, those seeking access to and from the island had to travel by ferry.

This week, the Bayonne’s history was front and center, as a who’s who of federal, state and local dignitaries gathered for a rededication ceremony to mark the completion of a $1.7 billion rebuilding project to meet 21st century standards. The project was conceived nine years ago to raise the bridge’s roadway to allow the world’s largest containerships to pass underneath it to call on port terminals in Elizabeth, Newark and Staten Island.

During the ceremony, officials and local residents celebrated the new state-of-the-art, four-lane bridge and recognized the Bayonne’s higher navigational clearance, part of the ‘Raising the Roadway’ project to accommodate bigger ships calling on Port Authority ports and generate a huge economic boost to the region.


Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton, Bayonne Mayor James Davis and PA Chairman Kevin O’Toole (l-r).

When the bridge first opened nearly 90 years ago, it was the world’s longest steel arch bridge (today it’s No. 4). The American Institute for Steel Construction awarded it a “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge Prize” for its design. In 1985, it was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. And in 2006, it was listed as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Perhaps the most unusual fact about the bridge is the tale still told of the golden scissors used to cut the Bayonne Bridge’s ceremonial opening day ribbon. After the ribbon-cutting, the scissors were sent to the Bayonne Bridge’s sister bridge, the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia. That bridge opened on March 19, 1932 and used the same scissors for its ribbon-cutting.

Some four months later, one scissor arm was sent back to the United States, the other kept in Australia. But at some point in transit, the scissor piece returned to this country went missing, and to this day has never been found.

Bayonne 3

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From the Rice Fields of Asia to the WTC

By Krista Didzbalis and Ryan Stolz, Media Relations Staff

Usually found in the fields of Asia, a real rice paddy—yes, you read that right—is now sitting in the heart of downtown Manhattan, connecting the world’s most widely grown food source with the world’s most bustling city.

The Port Authority has partnered with lifestyle brand LUCKYRICE to foster the idea that rice isn’t just a versatile and delicious food, but a celebration of New York as a multicultural community, symbolizing remembrance and renewal. And the Oculus Plaza on the World Trade Center campus, where a ceremony was held this morning to celebrate its unveiling, is the perfect location to showcase the seemingly atypical art installation.


“This unique rice paddy installation celebrates a food staple embedded in cultures around the globe,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “This display is perfectly suited to the World Trade Center which, both by its name and its heritage, seeks to celebrate and support global diversity.”

With an emphasis on sustainability, the three-tiered display was designed using eco-friendly practices while also doubling as seating in an area used by more than 250,000 people a day. The varieties of rise include Purple Jamon Upland Rice from Italy, Yukikihari Lowland Rice of Japan, Mamorika Upland Rice of Madagascar, Amaura Upland Rice from Uzbekistan and Carolina Gold Rice of America.


Planting the seeds of a new installation at the WTC

“I hope that coming across a rice paddy at the World Trade Center will put a smile on the faces of all visitors, and they will stop and think and wonder more about the grain that feeds the majority of the world,” said Danielle Chang, LUCKYRICE founder and CEO.

The site also will serve as an outlet for programming and events for residents, students and tourists. The programs will include school tours, culinary demonstrations, sustainable architecture, eco-friendly farming practices and multicultural public art talks, all taking place between now and the Harvest Festival in late September.

The rice paddy will remain on the Oculus Plaza until the Harvest Festival on September 28, at which time residents, schools, local organizations and tourists are encouraged to take part in harvesting and — of course – consuming heavy amounts of rice.


Port Authority Executive Director Cotton and Danielle Chang

Posted in Oculus, The Oculus, Uncategorized, World Trade Center, World Trade Center Redevelopment, World Trade Center Transportation Oculus, WTC