BY NICK ABADJIAN & LIZ GOFF
It was the morning of what is typically the busiest travel day of the year – one day before Thanksgiving – and as the military personnel patrolled the airport with rifles slung over their shoulders, the airline check-ins had a low flow of passengers and the parking lots had vast spans of empty spaces.
The Port Authority told the Queens Tribune that they estimated a 21 percent drop in the five-day Thanksgiving holiday travel this year over last year. They estimated that their three airports would have one million passengers from Wednesday through Sunday, with LaGuardia expected to receive 290,000 passengers, while JFK is expected to have 330,000. Last year, LaGuardia had 383,000 and JFK had 422,000.
TWA Pilot Tom Hacker from Whitestone agreed that he had seen a decrease in passengers on his flight. “I’m not surprised with everything that happened. People need time to recover,” said Hacker. His flight coming back from Hawaii. The 767 was about three quarters full and his cockpit was outfitted with a bar to prevent unwanted guests. Now he has to buzz in the flight attendants.
And the bar wasn’t brimming with people at Hangars Food Sprits. “Before we wanted to get away from the people,” said bartender Josie Fernandez about holiday rushes. “Now we have to wait for the crowd.”
Bar patron and Texan Darren Schneider remarked, “This place is dead in comparison. There’s nobody here.” As an engineer that offers architectural engineering instruction he has seen many airports traveling 80,000 miles a year.
On Nov. 21 he arrived early and found himself kicking back at the bar with three hours to kill. “Last year during the holidays you couldn’t walk through the terminals,” said Schneider.
Just after noon, lines began forming at the check-ins and one airport employee explained that the rush of people come in waves . . . 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. after people finish work.
And skycap Manual Vida at the central terminal said, “It’s packed, but not like before. This is the busiest it’s been since 9-11.”
Since the attack Vida no longer checks in bags outside the terminal and only helps people when they ask. “We live on tips,” said Vida, explaining that half the workforce of skycaps started looking for other jobs.
Ten-year old Fhibin Joseph, who attends PS 71 in Ridgewood, was a little anxious to fly to Texas. Standing by supportive parents he said, “I want to go on but I’m really scared that something might happen to the engine.”
Other passengers seemed less stressed like the Hylands from Sag Harbor who were relaxing on electronic chair massagers. “It’s pretty quiet,” commented Terri Hyland, as she was getting a back rub from a Brookstone chair. The Hylands were waiting to board a Chicago bound flight to be with family.
“It’s interesting to see the guys in camouflage,” Hyland added, but, “I can’t say that I’m comforted.” She felt more confident with the beefed up uniformed security, yet somehow inside she felt unsafe.
Reporting To The Borough Board
Representatives of the Port Authority (PA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) opened this week’s Borough Board meeting as Borough President Claire Shulman asked some pointed questions about the safety of air travel out of her borough.
JFK Airport General Manager Al Graser reported that starting Nov. 21, National Guardsmen would also be covering the “frontages” as well as there being two guardsmen at every screening area.
More flights were on time this week during a season known for being plagued with delays.
Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen
FAA Eastern Division Security Manager Marcus Arroyo told Shulman and the Board “we’re getting a lot of good intelligence” to assist in their “security directives.” He spoke of the difficult job that screeners do and said that Guardsmen have gone through special training to be able to assist the screeners.
Councilman John Sabini told Arroyo that he had flown soon after the Guardsmen appeared on the airport scene, and he asked if they weren’t just “eye candy.”
“What are they trained to do,” Sabini asked, smiling as he said that it didn’t seem their patrolling would add to air safety. “If I want to hijack the terminal, that’s a different story,” Sabini said.
Arroyo responded that their presence is needed to “insure the proper operation of the screening check point,” and their training includes learning the job of the screeners.
Shulman questioned the PA and the FAA about the citizenship requirements and identification checks of airport workers. Although the federal Act signed into law this week will require that the screeners be U.S. citizens, the PA representatives said that it is not a requirement for the baggage handlers who load planes.
In response to the concerns of the Board, PA representative Patti Clark added that in addition to the re-evaluation of all identification cards, the Authority is also looking into technology that would make hand, face or eye scans the new identification method for employees.
Shulman also expressed strong concern to the Arroyo’s report that only carry-on luggage is being screened on domestic flights. Arroyo said that the airports are moving toward having all stow-away luggage screened as well, but to date the technology has been too slow in being distributed and too expensive to be in widespread use.
The New Federal Safety
Under the Aviation Security Act signed by President George W. Bush this week, the federal government will now hire and train 28,000 employees to screen passengers and baggage at the nation’s airports. It will also put hundreds of additional armed sky marshals on aircraft, require intelligence agencies to share terrorist information with airport security heads, and allow pilots to carry guns (or stun guns). All aircraft will also be required to comply with strict, new cockpit security measures.
Congressman Joseph Crowley said the Act means “there will be uniformity and protocol [for airport screening]. Right now, the protocol is different depending on the airline.”
The bill also requires that all airport screeners be U. S. citizens – a move that would put “at least 65 percent” of current screeners out of a job, experts said.
Aviation Security Association spokesman Kevin Quinn said he feels that the government will eventually realize that many of the security breaches at passenger checkpoints are caused by “human beings utilizing imperfect technology.” Quinn said the private companies will “remain on the sidelines” for the next three years, working at overseas airports and other security areas. Then the companies will try to persuade U.S. airports to rehire them, he said.
Crowley added that currently less than 10 percent of all luggage on domestic flights are being screened. “The goal is to have 100 percent by 2002,” he said.
Historically, security methods utilized at U.S. airports fail to detect 20 percent of dangerous objects that passengers sneak aboard airplanes – hidden in baggage, handbags, backpacks and pockets, FAA officials revealed this week.
Under the bill, all baggage will be screened for bombs and explosives, and screeners will be fired if they fail to detect weapons and contraband at one of a series of checkpoints.
US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said the new security measures could carry a $2.6 billion price tag. Airlines will contribute from $700 million to $1 billion a year to defray the costs of the increased safety measures, he said. The federal government will set the salaries of screeners, which will be more than are now paid.
Mineta also said his agency would begin a search for the newly created position of undersecretary. The selection process must be “heavily scrutinized,” he said.
“We will put a great deal of responsibility for the safety of air travelers in the hands of whoever is chosen to fill the position,” Mineta said.
Passengers will be required to fork over $2.50 for each leg of a flight to pay for the increased safety. The bill calls for a maximum additional fee of $5.00 for a one-way flight.
In addition, Mineta said, the U.S. Department of Transportation is in the process of developing a database that would allow airport security personnel to cross-check names of passengers with those on “watch lists” compiled by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
— Tamara Hartman contributed to the story
Queens In The Wake Of The Towers: Caught In A Student Lens
BY NICK ABADJIAN
Two seniors from Robert F. Wagner High School in Long Island City ventured to ground zero to witness how Sept. 11 changed their City. They came back with colorful images in black and white.
High school student Shanna Nash’s photo captures mood at Ground Zero shortly after the Twin Towers fell.
The high school, located on 30th Place, has now set up an exhibit on the second floor with the 20 black and white photos snapped by Shanna Nash and Michael Lindwasser. The students didn’t capture the breaking news of the collapses. Instead, they focused on objects that symbolized the heroics and despair of workers at Ground Zero.
Lindwasser photographed the skeletal remains of one of the towers that impaled into the ground and an American flag in the foreground with a blurred FDNY truck in the background. He also ventured into a firehouse to capture a line of uniforms hanging with a ghost-like feel.
Another photo captures the blurry back of an unknown, young female student with a backpack as she looks at the scene and discovers the new landscape. Coming into focus 10 feet from her are military personnel.
A hundred feet from her are the remains of the World Trade Center.
Lindwasser wrote in his exhibit, “I feel that visual art is an extremely powerful way of expressing how you feel. Visual art can sometimes be much more powerful than words. This is why I chose the visual arts as a way of venting out my feelings, because most people including myself were left speechless and filled with sorrow on that tragic day.
Nash captured worn firefighter pants drying on the back of the pickup truck. Though the firefighters are not seen, the image describes the hours they spent searching in dismay. The same applies to a workman’s glove thrown on top of a grating.
Accompanying the photos is a memorial in the middle of the room that looks like it was plucked away from a block near Ground Zero. Nash made the vigil scene whose walls are covered with cutout newspaper pages showing Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton with a mask, snapshots of the missing, and firefight-ers in action. The back-drop is an American flag and candles cover the floor in front of the display. Yellow police tape stating, “Caution,” cordons off the scene.
The entrance to the exhibit has windows wall papered with photos of missing firefighters downloaded from the internet. In the corner is the photo of Firefighter Michael Brennan of Ladder 4. He was the son of Eileen Walsh, the school’s secretary.
The exhibit is open for viewing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout December. For more information, call 472-9124.
In keeping with their long history of artistic and musical excellence, the students of Bayside High School put their heart, pride and soul into a performance last week that they called “A Night of Tribute And Reflection” . . . and the result was over $4,000 raised for the World Trade Center charities. From the U.S. Army’s presentation of the colors before the packed audience to the outstanding musical performances and the moving readings and remarks, the evening was a night to honor the heroes and those lost. Ticket sales will benefit charity, and as of presstime, Bayside Principal Judith Tarlo said the total was “$4,335.60 . . . and more is coming!”
Tribune Photo by Tamara Hartman
Free Memories From Bayside
BY ANGELA MONTEFINISE
The East Bayside Home-owner’s Association (EBHA) and the Minuteman Press of Bayside have joined forces and funding to provide free posters of the now destroyed World Trade Center to residents of Queens.
Bayside civic leader Frank Skala with one of the posters his association is helping distribute for free.
Tribune Photo by Angela Montefinise
The posters, which are 14×20 inches big, show a photo of the Manhattan skyline on a clear, sunny day, with the Twin Towers featured prominently in the center.
Frank Skala, president of EBHA, said, “Near Ground Zero, lowlifes are selling posters of the Twin Towers at $2 a pop, meanwhile it costs about 15 cents to print one. People want to remember the Towers, and it’s not fair that they should have to pay for a photo. We’re distributing them for free for that reason, and we’re paying for them out of our own pockets.”
Since mid-September, 4,000 posters have been printed and distributed by Minuteman according to Skala, with the EBHA splitting the cost with the printer. “We’re glad to do it,” Skala said. “It’s money well spent.”
Skala said the idea to distribute free posters originated when a woman tried to print 1,000 posters at Minuteman to sell for almost $4 apiece to customers. Minuteman owner Alex Polakovich discovered the woman’s intent after the posters were printed, and decided to give them away rather than give them to her. Skala said, “When I heard Minuteman was giving the posters away, I thought it was a great idea, and asked them to print up more to give away. It grew from there.”
Skala and Polakovich have distributed the posters to Bayside churches and banks, and have also made them available at the August Moon Ltd. store at 39-33 Bell Blvd. and The Book Shop at 214-05 41st Ave. Minuteman Press also has them available at 42-35 Bell Blvd. Skala said, “If we need to print more, we will. Anything to get people these posters for free.”
The Homeless Love Heroes
This sign, proclaiming that the homeless people of Queens love and appreciate the New York City Fire and Police Departments in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy, just “appeared” one morning on Avery Street, just west of College Point Boulevard, according to local merchants and residents. Brenda Robyns, a local resident shopping at nearby Western Beef, said, “I have no idea where that sign came from. I live right near here, and the sign just appeared one morning. I think it’s really nice, but really confusing. I don’t see homeless people around here. Unless they don’t look homeless.”
Adult Care Workers Extend Contribution
The staff at Madison York Assisted Living Program in Woodhaven decided to do their part in helping survivors.
A collection by the staff of 120 employees netted a generous sum given to firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, and the United Fund, at a ceremony on Sept. 28.
Residents of Madison York also attended when the presentation was made to Ladder 136, Police Precinct 104, a representative from Citywide EMT, and a representative from the United Fund.
— Arlene Lewis