How We Work: JP Richer, Playing it Safe at Port Newark

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

A Coast Guard reservist and father of three young kids, Senior Marine Terminals Operations Representative Jean-Paul Richer is no stranger to waking up with the sun. By 7 a.m., he’s already at Port Newark, where he can see from his office window cranes and forklifts piercing the blue skies just beyond vast lots of recently unloaded Toyotas.

Richer, who goes by JP, is charged with overseeing security operations at Port Newark, which includes managing its security plan and acting as a liaison between port tenants and the Port Authority — vital work that often goes unnoticed as people across the country buy their fresh produce and new cars every day.

While his mission is clear, every day brings different demands. One day, he’ll be meeting with the Coast Guard for their yearly audit, where the Port’s security plans are assessed. Another day, he might be leading up to 30 people in a tabletop exercise, conducted to ensure that Port Newark’s emergency procedures are up to date, or meeting with the Law Enforcement Working Group of local officers to keep up with work and procedures.

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Richer also embraces one of his other key roles: educating the public on Port Newark and giving tours of the facility, from the warehouses where not-from-concentrate orange juice is stored at 42 degrees Fahrenheit, to the giant mounds of salt for winter roads that were shipped in from India, to the piles of scrap metal being prepared for export.

“It’s so satisfying to know that I play a part in providing resources to the region,” Richer said. “You might not realize it when your Amazon package gets delivered to your door, but a lot had to happen for it to arrive there.”

His love of the water goes back to when he was a kid. Growing up in the small town of Millville, Mass., he enjoyed going to the beach with his grandparents and riding his uncle’s boat on a nearby lake. After graduating high school, he joined the Coast Guard. “I wanted to see the country, I wanted to serve my country, and I wanted to save lives,” he said.

Richer is still in the Coast Guard Reserves, leading training’s at the Sandy Hook station. In many ways, his role at the Port Authority is similar to his Coast Guard experience, just from a different vantage point.

“When I was out with the Coast Guard, I had no idea what was in all those boxes coming in and out of the ports,” he said. “Now, I have a much greater understanding of how all those ships contribute to the livelihood of the region.”

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Rich Laraway, the Deputy General Manager of New Jersey Marine Terminals, knows first-hand Richer’s dedication to his job. “JP has demonstrated time and again his willingness to support the needs of the facility, regardless of what they are and when they occur,” Laraway said. “He provides the management team with a wealth of historical best practices and situational knowledge that enable us to meet and exceed our security goals.”

For everyday citizens might not think about where their orange juice comes from or where the old TV goes after the dumpster, it’s people like Richer who contribute to the seamless flow of goods in and out of the United States.

“It’s my job to make sure our port is open, safe, and secure,” Richer said. “It’s an honor to come to work every day.”

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Richer participates in a port clean-up program

Posted in Uncategorized

At Newark Airport, Building from the Ground Up

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

If you asked Vicky Dugan 30 years ago what she thought she’d be doing today, working on a Newark Liberty International Airport paving crew probably would not have been the answer.

Dugan is the only woman on the Port Authority’s paving team, which last night put the finishing touches on one of the most extensive paving jobs in the airport’s history. For three 12-hour overnight shifts in a row, Dugan and her fellow team members restored the busy roadway in front of Terminal B as part of Operation Smooth Ride, a two-year effort to make improvements that enhance travelers’ experiences from the minute they enter the airport.

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Dugan says that the people she works with make the job especially enjoyable. As the only woman on the paving team, she has become a trusted and caring colleague. “I want everyone to feel comfortable and know that they can come to me for anything,” she said.

Her first job out of high school didn’t suggest that she would become a highly respected member of the airport’s Structural Maintenance group. She was a clerical aide on the 69th floor of the World Trade Center. By day, she kept track of toll collections. By night, she took classes to get a degree in accounting.

But two major events would shape the trajectory of her life. The first was the 1993 WTC bombing. After experiencing that traumatic event, she decided she couldn’t work at the Twin Towers location anymore. Second, she took a General Maintainer class offered by the Port Authority. Though busy with both work and school, she was determined to pass the class, because she had a longtime passion for repairing things

“I never doubted my ability to keep going,” she said. “And if it wasn’t for that class, I wouldn’t be in maintenance today.”

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Dugan is in her 13th year on the paving crew. When she’s not on the airport roads, Dugan can be found anywhere from the runways to parking garages to taxiways, sealing cracks or filling holes to preserve the integrity of the many essential surfaces across the airport.

“Vicky’s a major asset to this team,” said Ronny Smith, Maintenance Group Supervisor and head of Newark Airport’s paving group. “She’s always ready to help out, whether that’s with me in the shop on the clerical side, or out in the field at any hour of any day.”

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Sealing cracks in the pavement on a taxiway

Since the death of her husband several years ago, she says she has become more self-sufficient, motivated to learn new skills and support her own maintenance needs such as taking care of her home by herself and helping friends and family when they need it.

Most recently, she repaired her mother’s car and closed her father’s pool for the year. “The guys at work were shocked I was able to do that. They said that most of the men they knew wouldn’t be able to do that!” Dugan said. “It makes me feel good that I can figure out how to fix things, and it’s rewarding when I do it.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Memories of 9/11, for a New Generation

By Krista Didzbalis is a member of the Port Authority Media Relations Staff

Almost all who experienced September 11, 2001 can recall where they were and what they were doing that dreadful morning.

For those of us who were children at the time, 9/11 is a seminal event, and for some, a pivotal childhood moment. Although at the time I was just five years old, the memory of that day has stayed with me in the 18 years that followed.

In fact, for the newest generation of Port Authority employees, the memories of 9/11 are embodied in the resiliency and strength of our colleagues who lived through that day and have been a part of us since we arrived for our first days on the job.

It was also evident this morning during the annual 9/11 commemoration. Scores of young Port Authority employees, all of us having grown up as the first post-9/11 generation, paid tribute to the victims and their families and mingled with our own Port Authority family, marveling at the spirit of agency survivors who return to their jobs day after day.

On the morning that changed history, my mom and dad arrived to pick up my twin brother and me early from preschool. The four of us had an early lunch at a local restaurant, where I can recall everyone’s eyes glued to the looped footage of the collapsing towers on the news. I observed the confused expressions on the faces of my parents and the unusual silence throughout the restaurant. It became clear that something was terribly wrong.

Later that evening, my parents, family members, and friends gathered in my backyard for what I thought was a normal gathering or party. They huddled closely around a 13-inch television that my dad set up on the patio to watch the president give his address to the nation. I watched through the window. My dad always recalls the eeriness he felt outside as not one single airplane flew over our house that night.

In the weeks that followed, my parents decided that it wasn’t safe to take our flight to Florida for our Disney World trip, understandably so. We drove 16 ½ hours instead.

With each passing anniversary, I began to better understand the life-altering impacts that day had on our nation. I became aware of the cultural influence, increased security, and related health issues associated with 9/11. The attacks remain a common topic of conversation with my first responder friends who still share with me their grievous experiences sifting through the debris at Ground Zero for days and weeks after the attacks.

I never imagined that 18 years later, I would be a Port Authority employee at the very place where a defining moment in U.S. history would take place. When I walked through the Memorial Plaza for the first time during my first week of work, all the stories I’ve been told about that day became real.

At work today, I had the opportunity to observe the 18th anniversary by participating in the annual 9/11 remembrance service on the Memorial Plaza. Although it was a somber morning, there was a sense of solidarity and resiliency to be highlighted. Working at the World Trade Center truly feels like an honor.

My friends and family always stress the importance of never forgetting the events that happened that day.

I walk through the Memorial Plaza almost every day, always taking a moment to glance at the waterfalls, sometimes stopping to eat lunch near the Survivor Tree. I do this as my own way of never forgetting that day and paying my respects to the victims of 9/11 as well as the men and women of the rescue and recovery efforts.

Posted in 9/11, 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Ground Zero, history, NY/NJ region, One World Trade Center, Twin Towers, Uncategorized, World Trade Center, WTC