Leaders Urge PA To Tighten Security
By NATALIA KOZIKOWSKASecurity workers at John F. Kennedy International Airport formally filed a complaint with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) last Thursday, alleging that post-flight security inspections are often rushed, potentially causing dangerous situations to flyers and residents. The complaint was signed by 30 of the 120 workers employed by JFK’s security contractor, Global Elite Group.
Once a plane lands and the all the food crumbs, candy wrappers and empty bottles are thrown away, airport security agents are federally mandated to conduct a thorough search of every cabin for items left behind by passengers. These security agents are also required to open every overhead bin and back-seat pocket one by one to ensure that any weapons, explosives or drugs that may have been left behind are removed before the plane takes off for its next flight.
But last week, various reports emerged, stating that security workers at JFK are told to cut corners to avoid delaying flights and revealed that their employees are undertrained and often under-equipped with nonfunctioning metal detectors.
This is not the first time a JFK Airport security contractor has been called into question.
In August, a TSA complaint was filed against JFK Airport security contractor Air Serv, a company named one of the worst employers in New York City by United NY. A New York University study determined their airport workers make a median of $8 per hour, with most earning minimum wage, despite having more than $400 million in revenue in 2010.
In an effort to urge the Port Authority to tighten its security, 21 local politicians, leaders and clergyman of Southeast Queens have sent and signed a letter to the Port Authority executive director, Patrick Foye, voicing their concerns.
“Airline security contractors who either do nothing to correct, or that even encourage shoddy security practices are doing us all a disservice and make our airport and our community less safe,” the letter read. “These airplanes fly over our homes, cargo and passengers coming to and from the airport drive through our streets, and many of the workers employed by these and other companies at the airport live in our community.”
Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) is adamant that the inadequate safety measures taken at JFK, one of the world’s busiest airports, could potentially lead to disaster, as echoed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“Any time that we place the value of making more money over people’s lives, you are going to find a situation that is inherently unsafe,” he said. “Nowhere in American history has this taught us to be more careful than with the aftermath of 9-11. The world is not a safe place – there are those that are looking to harm America and looking for us to drop our guard, and this can not happen at JFK.”
Camille Rivera, executive director of UnitedNY, seconded Richards’ concern that low wages and few benefits are only exasperating the poor security measures taken at JFK.
“Substandard training and wages not only jeopardizes the safety of our city – it jeopardizes the safety of our country,” she said. “I don’t think that they have the right training or the right wages they need for the right support to get the job done. If you pay better wages and increase training there is less turnover and more consistency. It creates a better work environment for everyone.”
Representatives from the Port Authority were scheduled to attend a meeting to address these concerns at The Eastern Queens Village Alliance, Inc. on Oct. 4.
The Port Authority did not return requests for comment before press time.
Reach Reporter Natalia Kozikowska at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 123, or email nkozikowska@ queenspress.com.