Michelangelo and the Port Authority

By Roz Hamlett, Media Relations Staff

A stroll through the installation of reproductions of Michelangelo’s renowned ceiling frescoes now on display in the World Trade Center Oculus isn’t quite the same as visiting the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

Minus the cost of a plane ticket to Rome, the exhibition is a contemporary way to engage with one of the world’s greatest artistic achievements, inside one of the world’s most striking architectural achievements.

But the exhibit, on display until July 23, is not the first time Michelangelo’s master works have crossed the Port Authority’s path.

Among other treasured objects of art that were shipped to New York for the 1964/65 World’s Fair was the Pieta, the priceless statue of the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus in death. The statue, irreplaceable and insured for $6 million, made the long journey by ship to the Port of New York without a single scratch.

From St. Peter’s Basilica, the statue was first crated and then encased in a light but highly durable plastic before being enclosed in a specially constructed steel container.  The cargo then was trucked 133 miles to the Port of Naples under 24-hour guard to the Italian Line’s Cristoforo Colombo.

A floating crane of sufficient capacity was unavailable, so the ship put in to dry dock for the lift.  A pre-tested 25-ton crane raised the 11,500-pound container from the truck and sat it down in an area with the least minimal vibration – the cabin class swimming pool.

The same care that was taken in packing the Pieta was taken to protect the masterpiece from loss in the unlikely event of a sinking.  The special packing assured buoyancy so the complete container would float five and half feet out of the water. The top of the container was painted orange to make it more visible from the air and an attached buoy was designed to broadcast a distress signal.


Brackets attached to framing members of the container at the top four corners stabilize the New York Harbor lift of Pieta from the deck of Cristoforo Colombo.

Fortunately, none of these devices were put to the test. The ship arrived on April 13, 1964, a tug towed a floating derrick alongside the ship and longshoremen climbed to the top of the container to rig it for its lift from the deck of the Cristoforo Colombo to a floating crane.

Early the next morning, tugs took the derrick in tow to Flushing Bay, where a truck waited on shore to receive the shipment for the short haul to the World’s Fair grounds.  At the Vatican Pavilion, the case was disassembled as meticulously as it had been packed. A vacuum machine slowly sucked out the shipping material that had insulated the Pieta during the trip.


Tugs brought a floating crane with Pieta to Flushing Creek Bridge where she was transferred to a truck for the hour and half-mile haul to the fairgrounds.

During the next two years, millions visited the fair and viewed Pieta in a specially illuminated chamber inside the Vatican Pavilion. Her trip was made possible with the help of shipping experts, and from the Port of New York.


Posted in Oculus, PONYNJ, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port of New York Authority, The Oculus, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Music to Their Ears: The PAPD Pipes and Drums Scholarships

By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff

Three high school students who aspire to careers in law enforcement – and who want to continue their participation in pipe and drum bands – recently were awarded scholarships they hope will help them achieve their future life goals.

Brendan Gillespie, 18, along with James Flynn Jr. and Jovanny Iglesia, who are both in the NYPD Explorers Program, received $1,000 scholarships from the PAPD Pipes and Drums Band to further their education.

Mom Michelle Dad Brian and Brenda

The Gillespie family:  Brendan Gillespie (right) stands with his mother Michelle and father Brian (center).


Scholarship recipients Jovanny Iglesia (second from left) and James Flynn Jr. (third from left) are flanked by members of the PAPD, including scholarship chairman Brian Cassidy, (far left) and Deputy Superintendent Edward Cetnar (second from right).

The annual scholarships were established in memory of PAPD Police Officers Liam Callaghan, Steve Huczko and Richie Rodriguez, all members of the Port Authority’s Pipes and Drums Band who died in the 9/11 terror attacks. So far, the band has awarded $18,000 to 21 different high school students who belong to pipe bands and are interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement. Successful recipients are well-rounded students who earn good grades and are involved in extra-curricular activities.

“Winning a memorial scholarship is significant no matter which one it is,” said Brendan Gillespie’s father, Brian, who knew and played with the three fallen PAPD officers. “But when our son wins a scholarship named after three friends that I played in the band with, I know that Liam, Steve and Richie are looking down upon Brendan and that he knows the significance of ‘Always Honored, Never Forgotten’.”


The Port Authority Pipes and Drums in full regalia.

Brendan’s parents are both in pipes and drums bands. Brendan, a graduate of Manasquan High School in New Jersey who plans to attend Brookdale Community College in the fall, plays along with his mother, Michelle, as drummers in the Jersey Shore Shillelagh Pipes and Drums band. Brendan’s father plays for Monmouth County Police and Fire Pipes and Drums.

James and Jovanny both graduated from Xaverian High School in Brooklyn. James, who was awarded ‘Explorer of the Year’ by the New York Police Department’s Explorer Program, is planning to attend Iona College. Jovanny will attend Saint Francis College in Brooklyn. He, too, was an explorer in the NYPD program. They both plan to pursue careers in law enforcement. Brendan plans to study Music and Theatre, as well as Criminal Justice.

“Sixteen years ago, collectively as a nation, we pledged to never forget the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11,” said scholarship chairman and PAPD Officer Brian Cassidy. “Through our commitment to these scholarships we as a pipe band are following through with this pledge of remembering our lost brothers, as well as making sure their legacy is passed on to future generations.”

Brendan at approx 1 year old

Brendan Gillespie as a toddler with the PAPD Pipes and Drums

For information about next year’s scholarships, go to PAPD Memorial Scholarship or contact Brian Cassidy at bcassidy@panynj.gov.

Posted in PAPD, Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Port Authority Police Department, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Bayonne Bridge Steel Rope, Making History in Lower Manhattan

By Neal Buccino, Special to Portfolio

Photos by the Port Authority’s Mike Dombrowski

Six centuries ago, engineers in the Inka Empire designed cable bridges long enough to span Peru’s mountain gorges and durable enough to withstand earthquakes.

They wove these bridges out of grass and made them remarkably strong, using principles of physics that today support modern-day marvels such as the George Washington Bridge and Bayonne Bridge.

Next year, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian-New York — located in the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in Lower Manhattan — will help students learn about these technological achievements, with a little help from the Port Authority. The agency recently donated to the museum a five-foot length of steel suspender rope from the Bayonne Bridge, one of the 152 original steel ropes that held up its 9,800-ton roadway for 85 years.

Made of more than 200 tightly wrapped steel wires, the suspender rope was removed as part of the Port Authority’s “Raise the Roadway” project, which will permit ultra-large container ships to navigate the Kill van Kull.


The Port Authority’s Roger Prince and Kevin Gover with the five-foot section of donated Bayonne Bridge suspender rope.


It will live on in the museum’s imagiNATIONS Activity Center, expected to debut next April. There, the steel rope (tensile strength: 950,000 pounds) will be displayed next to a grass rope with a tensile strength of 4,000 pounds, of the kind still used in Peru’s last remaining rope bridge, the Q’eswachaka.

Nearby, suspended from the ceiling, visitors will see a 26-foot section of an actual rope bridge built by the modern-day keepers of the Q’eswachaka Bridge. The 4,500-square-foot imagiNATIONS Activity Center will include interactive exhibits on Native American innovations across fields as varied as engineering and architecture, medicine and nutrition.


The Bayonne Bridge suspender rope had to be tested for lead and other contaminants before donation. This swab test was performed by the Smithsonian’s Mike Hunt.


The exhibit will help visiting students understand how, with flexible strands of any material twisted and braided together, a rope much stronger than its component parts can be created.

“Showcasing a section of Bayonne Bridge steel cable alongside an Inka bridge rope made of ichu grass highlights the continuity in engineering concepts the Inka and their descendants have used for millennia,” said Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian. “Native innovation is everywhere in modern life and this is one instance where we can directly point to it and provide that ‘a-ha’ moment.”

“This steel rope carries all the history of the Bayonne Bridge, which in its day was the longest steel arch bridge in the world,” said Roger Prince, the Port Authority’s Deputy Director of Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals. “We hope it provides an educational experience for everyone who visits the imagiNATIONS Center.”


The museum’s Gerard Breen shows off a model of the imagiNATIONS Activity Center, where the steel suspender rope will be displayed.

Posted in Bayonne Bridge, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,