For These PAPD Recruits, It’s All in The Family

By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff

Growing up, Port Authority Police Department recruits Robert Greff, Patrick Cottrell and Stephen Pellicone watched as their fathers put on the PAPD uniform each day, bringing a sense of pride and duty to their departmental tours.

This week, their fathers looked on with pride as the “legacy” recruits completed 26 weeks of training to join a department that has been part of their lives for so long. They were among the 120 recruits in the 119th Police Academy graduation class that received badges and swore oaths of office at a World Trade Center ceremony on Thursday.


Officer Robert Greff (second from right) with his family and PAPD leadership

Greff is actually a third-generation officer. His father is retired PAPD Lieutenant Robert Greff, who joined the department in 1992, and his grandfather Roger Greff started on the job in 1960.

“I always wanted to be like my father,” said Greff, who served eight years as a Marine after joining the corps at the age of 19. “Becoming a PAPD officer is something I am extremely proud off. My dad has been someone I always looked up to, he was the guy who did good on the job and that’s who I want to be.”


Officer Patrick Cottrell with his father, retired PAPD sgt. Kevin Cottrell and PAPD leadership

Cottrell previously served as an New York City corrections officer. His father, retired PAPD Sergeant Kevin Cottrell, served 27 years in the department and has been his son’s inspiration. Before joining the PAPD, the younger Cottrell worked as a Metropolitan Opera House stagehand and as a longshoreman. He also plays the bagpipes.

“I’ve waited my whole  life to be a Port Authority cop,” said Cottrell. “My dad has been my hero for as long as I could remember, and for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a Port Authority Police officer.”


Officer Stephen Pellicone with his father, retired PAPD Officer Joseph Pellicone  and PAPD leadership

Pellicone’s recollection of the PAPD starts with the cool fire trucks he got to check out, when he was young, since his father Joseph Pellicone — who served almost 30 years with the department — was a member of the Port Authority’s Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Unit at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Pellicone received his father’s shield during the ceremony.

“It doesn’t feel real to me,” said Pellicone, who earned a degree in Psychology from University of Pittsburgh. “My father always had a way of calming me down through his stories on the job and his advice.”

The trio understand the challenges and dangers that can come with the job. Greff and Cottrell recall the worry they felt on 9/11, when their fathers were on duty and later assisted in the rescue and recovery efforts. Greff’s grandfather was also involved in post-9/11 recovery efforts. Cottrell remembers when his father finally came home that day. They embraced and cried together. “I’ll never forget that,” said Cottrell.

Following their graduation, which took place at the 9/11 Museum, the recruits were sworn in and given their shields and then gathered at the WTC’s South Pool to honor the fallen officers by placing 56 carnation flowers where the names of all PAPD officers who have died in the line of duty are inscribed on the memorial. Thirty-seven of those officers died on 9/11.

PAPD Superintendent Edward Cetnar was joined by Robert Greff and fellow recruit David Atkinson in laying a wreath at the site. During remarks delivered at the graduation ceremony, Cetnar reminded the new officers of their duty to protect the region and act responsibly while upholding the legacy of officers who’ve served before.

“As these graduates begin their careers as law enforcement professionals, they are now equipped with training and resources to protect millions of people, not only in enforcing laws but as first responders at the agency’s airports, tunnels, bridges, terminals and PATH,” Cetnar said.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Posted in PAPD, Port Authority Police Academy, Port Authority Police Department, Uncategorized

From Newark to World Trade, PATH Engineer Stays the Course

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

The view from the front of a PATH train on the Newark-World Trade Center line is breathtaking.

PATH Engineer Elena Clarke enjoys that rare view every day, watching the sun set over the city skyline while she’s on the job. “I remember when I first saw that view,” she recalled as she headed east into New York from Newark Penn Station on a recent afternoon run.

Clarke sits at the front of the train, controlling its speed, among many other crucial tasks in order to transport thousands of passengers safely from one side of the Hudson to the other. In addition to operating the entire train, she’s also looking out for hazards on the tracks – everything from maintenance workers to dropped cell phones – and constantly coordinating with her fellow conductor and the control desk.

“I don’t think people realize that there’s a real person up front keeping that train moving,” Clarke said. “I’m laser-focused when I get in that seat. I’m the reason people get to work or go home to their families, and that’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s really rewarding.”


    A view from the front

Clarke wasn’t always in the driver’s seat. After college, she wanted to be a professor but eventually realized that she didn’t want to be in school for that long. After a few different jobs, her father, a second-generation Port Authority employee (making her a third), suggested that she go after an engineer or conductor job at PATH.

“My first thought was, are you crazy? I can’t drive a train!” Clarke remembered.

Nevertheless, she applied to work at PATH. And although she was passing all her tests, she still felt like she didn’t belong in the engineer’s chair. “Before I started at PATH, I thought working with trains was a man’s world,” she said. “I thought I was going to be looked at as a joke.”

But as Clarke transitioned from passenger assistant to conductor to engineer, she started to see the number of female engineers increasing. Today, she’s among 37 other female engineers, up from just three in 2000. “I saw other women doing the jobs that I wanted to do, and it made me feel like I can do this and I want to do this,” she said.

Operating a PATH train on the system’s busiest line during rush hour takes an incredible degree of focus and quick decision-making. Dan Ryan, a dispatcher based in Newark, has experienced Clarke’s skill firsthand. “Elena is so dependable. I know I can count on her for anything, whether that’s keeping her train on time or helping out a fellow crew member,” he said.


Two generations of Clarkes (and Port Authority)

Clarke’s job is not an easy one and her dedication does not go unnoticed, whether that’s out in the field below the Hudson River or back at her parents’ house in South Carolina.

“If her grandfather was alive today, he’d be very proud that she’s a third generation Port Authority employee,” said her father, Michael Clarke. “Knowing that she’s now confident in what she initially saw as a very challenging job, it also makes me proud to have her as my daughter and my co-worker.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Making History, One Generation to the Next

Compiled and Edited by Media Relations Staff

The Port Authority’s history is rich with the accomplishments of African American leaders and professionals, who’ve contributed greatly over the years to the agency’s mission of keeping the region moving.

Their names occupy a special place in the Port Authority archives. Ernesto Butcher, the universally admired Chief Operating Officer who calmly helped steered the Port Authority through the chaotic aftermath of 9/11. Henry DeGeneste, the first African American to serve as Port Authority Police Department superintendent. Aviation Director Huntley Lawrence and PATH Director/General Manager Clarelle DeGraffe are among today’s leaders making a difference at the agency.

Portfolio asked representatives from various Port Authority facilities, and with differing levels of PA experience, to reflect on their own histories, their personal and professional influences, and on what Black History Month means to them. Here are some of their responses:

Audrey Dagnachew – Senior Engineer of Projects, Engineering Department


I am reminded, especially during Black History Month, that many pioneers forged the path so that I can be here today. I’ve had the privilege to serve the PA almost 26 years, leading projects and in my current role supporting TB&T’s multi-billion-dollar capital plan with a diverse team of talented people. One challenge I face periodically and especially when meeting new people: some folks don’t know how to look past my physical attributes and focus on the value that I bring to the table. On the flip side, almost everyone I’ve had a connection with has inspired me in some way. So in essence I’ve had hundreds of mentors inside and outside the PA and I have mentored many others.

Anthony Miller– Senior Compliance Analyst, Office of Diversity and Inclusion

0164Black History is the backbone of American History which can be celebrated every day. In my four-year tenure, I have embedded myself within the Port Authority as a member and Vice-President of the Network of Black Employees (NBE) to advocate for diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization. As a Senior Compliance Analyst in the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, I advocate on behalf of the diverse small business community to have access to opportunities provided by PANYNJ. The ability to represent the highest levels of talent both internally and externally brings me the greatest sense.

Stacey Gilbert — Senior External Relations Client Manager, Government & Community Relations (New York)


My tenure with the Port Authority began in late 2013, under the tutelage of Brian W. Simon, one of if not the youngest director in the agency at the time and an African American heading the New York side of the Government & Community Relations department. He often reminded me to not be afraid to “take up space,” that my voice, perspective, and experiences as a professional African American woman were valuable and should be heard. Though Black History Month is a time when the contributions of African Americans are formally acknowledged, both my ancestors before me, contemporaries, and upcoming generations continue to blaze trails in a variety of disciplines 365 days a year. During this time in particular, not only do I celebrate the myriad achievements of so many African American greats but reflect on my desire to continue the legacy of strength, perseverance, excellence, and evolution, both in my own life and among my fellow African Americans.

Russell Jordan– Social Media Strategist, Marketing Department

Black history is happening all the time and should not be celebrated one month a year. The contribution of black and brown people to both the Port Authority and the world should be documented and made easily accessible so that future leaders can 0166

honor, celebrate, and be empowered by the achievements made by those who look like them. Representation is important. I am thankful to present and past PA leaders, including but not limited to Ernesto Butcher, Clarelle DeGraffe, Huntley Lawrence, Jerome Roberson, Willie Mae Williams, and Deloris Scott, for being examples of black excellence.  My advice to the next generation is to stay true to yourself. Call out bigotry and intolerance and demand that all treat you with the same level of respect they’ve earned from you.


Alexis Hargrove–Assistant Director, Passenger Communications & Customer Experience, PATH


Black History Month is more than just a celebration of black achievements and stories; it was a part of my childhood. When I grew up, Saturday morning was a personal development day at my house. My parents were always candid with me. I understood early on there was tremendous racial progress had occurred throughout the nation’s history, but oppression was still a reality. Now that I am an adult, I value my childhood more because I understand now what those lessons did for me. I realized at an early age life is not always fair, but without struggle, there would be progress. As an adult, I still carry the momentum of my ancestors.

Raymond Bryan – Deputy Chief, Port Authority Police Department


One reflection which resonates with me as we celebrate Black History Month is to recognize and honor the sacrifices, contributions, and accomplishments of African Americans to our country and moreover the world. There is a large challenge one is faced with, remaining confident and persistent to maintain strides and gains to achieve success. Not only once you’ve achieved the success but continuing to maintain the perseverance of success as many are so often challenged to do. I include keeping my spiritual faith and belief to cope with doors closed in front of you and ceilings constructed over one’s head.

Portia Henry—Program Manager, Major Capital Projects

0169Women reaching the upper echelon of leadership in the transportation industry—more specifically black women — is still a relatively recent occurrence. Black History Month is a time to reflect that for over 240 years, African Americans were commodified. Another 90 years were marred by overt segregation practices leading up to the Civil Rights movement, and roughly the last 66 years have been a time period of recognizing ‘firsts.’ We collectively celebrate such pioneers in transportation and ask: how do we transform their brave pathways of success into blueprints? We all have a role to play to ensure that the firsts are not the last and that authentic leadership, mentorship, sponsorship, career coaching, holistic self-care, and overall technical preparedness are all baked into the framework for black women to be equally equipped and poised for growth when opportunities arise.

Kadeem Short—Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of Emergency Management0170

Black History Month to me is a time to reflect on those who have faced adversity and struggle, so that someone like myself can be successful in life and given a fair chance to prove what I am capable of. Two people in the agency have inspired me to overcome every struggle and to be my best self: Jerry McCarty (Director of OEM) and Huntley Lawrence (Director of Aviation).  I started at the Port Authority September 2018 and decided to join the PA because of the great veterans’ internship program. In my career here, I would like to make an impact, not only on the agency but with my co-workers.

Posted in Uncategorized