Three customs officers busted for sexually hazing coworkers at Newark Airport

Three customs officers have been busted on charges they inflicted “senseless physical abuse” on their Newark Airport co-workers, including forced gyrations on a “rape table,” federal prosecutors said Wednesday. “This behavior would be abhorrent in any environment, especially one serving a critical law enforcement function,” Acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick said in a statement before the three men’s arraignments in Newark. “The hard working men and women who protect our borders deserve better.” The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents — Tito Catota, 38, Parmenio Perez, 40, and Michael Papagni, 32, all of New Jersey — were members of a unit responsible for identifying dangerous contraband and threats to national security. Their arrests follow an investigation into the sexual hazing by NBC’s News4 New York and its initial broadcast that aired in May. "Once the lights go out, they grab you up like a gang, and they forcibly throw you on the table and one officer ended up mounting me and pretty much riding me like a horse," Officer Vito Degironimo told the station. "I’m grabbed by other officers against my will. I don’t know how much more criminal you can get." He continued: "Hazing wouldn’t do this justice. This is complete assault. They take you in a room and your fellow officers are all watching as officers grab you." Papagni allegedly told a man the office table was known as the "rape table" — and threatened him that’s where he’d wind up, according to the criminal complaint. In one Jan. 10 incident cited by prosecutors, a victim was asked to retrieve a document tied to a drug seizure. While workers were trying to scan the item, Papagni “grabbed victim one’s arms and legs and threw him on top of the PERT office table,” according to the complaint. As two men held down their Continue Reading

Customs and Border Protection officers at Newark Airport accuse superiors of extreme hazing; ‘This is terrorizing’

Customs and border protection officers at Newark Airport have accused their superiors of extreme hazing and regular sexual abuse, including the duct-taping of victims to what they call a “rape table.” The Department of Homeland Security is investigating the allegations, NBC 4 New York reported. Multiple officers said they fear for their safety and allege that regular assault — by members of their own agency — is part of the job. “I’m afraid for my life, my safety,” CBP officer Diana Cifuentes told NBC 4 New York. Officer Vito Degironimo also came forward. “Hazing wouldn’t do this justice. This is complete assault. They take you in a room and your fellow officers are all watching as officers grab you,” he told NBC 4. The abuse takes place in a Terminal C room with a conference table that doubles as a "rape table," Degironimo said. “Once the lights go out, they grab you up like a gang, and they forcibly throw you on the table and one officer ended up mounting me and pretty much riding me like a horse,” he told NBC 4. Cifuentes recalls being in a similar situation. She said she escaped the “rape table” only to be taped to a chair by a weapon-wielding officer. “I was very afraid for my life...I know that if I reacted either he was going to pull the trigger or I was going to draw the weapon myself and shoot him,” she told NBC 4. Degironimo described being too intimated to complain about the abuse. “People are too scared to go anywhere because these guys are well connected,” he said. “Our immediate supervisors are best friends with these officers,” he said. The investigation into the hazing allegations is ongoing. CBP insists it doesn’t tolerate abuse within its agency. “We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we Continue Reading

New Jersey train with hundreds of passengers evacuated at Newark Airport after bomb scare

A New Jersey train was evacuated after a bomb scare on Monday night. A passenger riding with his father on a North Jersey Coast Line train going toward Bayhead made serious threats against the railroad at about 6 p.m., New Jersey Transit spokeswoman Jennifer Nelson told the Daily News. The disturbing threats forced the conductor to make an emergency stop at Newark Airport, where NJ Transit and Port Authority police rushed to the scene. Up to 800 passengers on-board were brought into the airport as police detained the threatening passenger and his father. Bomb-sniffing dogs and officers searched the suspect and the train for explosives and found no evidence of an immediate threat, Port Authority police spokesman Joseph Pentangelo told the News. The father was detained at the Port Authority police station while the son was brought to a hospital for a mental evaluation, police said. There were no injuries reported. Train service resumed stopping at the airport at about 7:16 p.m., according to the agency. Continue Reading

Port Authority to permit $4B overhaul to LaGuardia Airport

The LaGuardia Airport overhaul is set for take off, with the Port Authority on Thursday authorizing $4 billion for the overhaul. MTA TO CONVERT BUS ROUTE FOR ACCESS TO LAGUARDIA AIRPORT FROM QUEENS SUBWAYS Commissioners at the Port Authority voted to move forward with a new Terminal B, central hall and concourse, amid debate over the true cost of the upgrades and how to keep the budget from ballooning. “Our plan will fundamentally transform LaGuardia — replacing what is now an outdated and poorly designed complex with the world-class airport New York has always deserved,” Gov. Cuomo, who advocated for improving LaGuardia Airport, said in a statement. “This represents a major milestone for the project — the first of many — and I look forward to seeing construction begin later this year.” Cuomo had targeted LaGuardia Airport for a makeover after Vice President Joe Biden famously quipped that it was a facility fit for a third-world country. While the board overwhelmingly approved the funding, Port Authority Chair John Degnan said the airport project's cost will be higher than expected, at $5.3 billion when spending going back to 2004 is tallied. The agency’s executive director, Pat Foye, rejected that reasoning. One commissioner, Ken Lipper, abstained in the vote authorizing LaGuardia Airport funding, arguing that there wasn't enough oversight of the contracts. Lipper pressed to have the Port Authority board have a greater say in approving contracts. “I think it's asking for another Oculus,” Lipper said in reference to the extravagant and expensive World Trade Center Transportation Hub. The Port Authority also voted in favor of the $2.3 billion redevelopment of Newark Airport’s Terminal A. In authorizing more than $6 billion for the region’s airports, Foye, Continue Reading

Gotham Air thrills with a six-minute helicopter ride from Downtown Manhattan to Kennedy Airport

Feeling like a millionaire is nice. No, I didn't win the Powerball jackpot, but I did go on a Bell 407 helicopter ride from Downtown Manhattan to Kennedy Airport. After writing an article on Gotham Air—a new helicopter service that takes passengers from Manhattan to JFK or the Newark Airport in under seven minutes—I got to experience the helicopter service myself. I had never been on a helicopter before and thought I would get motion sickness or be nervous from being so high up in the air with windows all around me, but it was all a pleasurable experience. Gotham Air, in essence, is the Uber for helicopters. Any person can book a flight via the website and then show up at the heliport and fly to their desired airport. It may sound like a very easy process, but that's because it was a very easy process. The experience began at the Pier 6 heliport in Downtown Manhattan. Our office is a two-minute walk from the heliport, so it was very easy to get there. When my colleagues and I arrived, we were taken to the VIP lounge where passengers are treated with pastries and cocktails—depending on the time of day. We had a quick introduction with the Gotham Air team and then we were up in the air. We decided to time the flight, not so much because we wanted to debunk the service's six-minute ride claim, but because we really wanted to know how fast the ride was. According to Google Maps and other map applications, it takes about 35 minutes to get to JFK from Downtown Manhattan in a Taxi. We wanted to see the difference in time between traveling through air and traveling through ground. The flight turned out to be under seven minutes. If I was running late for a flight, or I knew that I had to catch a flight right after work, I would definitely want to have 28 minutes to spare. Flying is definitely the way to go. The service can be a bit pricy, though. Prices can range anywhere between $199 to $219, depending Continue Reading

Port Authority to spend $1.5 billion to extend PATH service to Newark Airport by 2024

A project that would allow for a single train ride between Manhattan and Newark Airport has finally received the funding needed to get on track. A Port Authority committee released a 10-year capital plan on Tuesday that includes $1.5 billion to construct an extension that would bring PATH train service into the New Jersey airport. Existing PATH service runs from multiple points in Manhattan to Hoboken and to Newark, but the rails do not link directly to the airport. The project would extend the line by about two miles, from the existing terminus at Newark’s Penn Station to the airport. It is anticipated to be completed in 2024, a Port Authority spokesman said, noting that lengthy processes of planning and property acquisition must conclude before construction can begin. The Global Gateway Alliance, an advocacy group that focuses on improving airports in New York and New Jersey, praised the funding commitment for the project. “It is good for New York,” the Alliance said in a statement. “It is good for New Jersey. But most of all, it's good for residents, businesses and visitors alike and will help bring us into the league of other world class cities with modern mass transportation to airports.” The alliance is largely composed of business executives and top union officials. The full $27.6 billion capital plan includes $1 billion to repair damage to Port Authority property caused by Hurricane Sandy and to bolster Port Authority facilities against future flooding. [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Tech startup offers Brooklynites cheap carpool rides to local airports for Thanksgiving trips

LOOKING for a cheap ride to the airport this holiday season? There’s an app for that. A tech startup is offering sharply discounted shared cab rides from Brooklyn to local airports this Thanksgiving. Riders who sign up will be connected with a car service providing Park Slope residents with $21 rides to LaGuardia Airport, $28 to JFK airport and $29 to Newark Liberty International Airport. That’s up to 40% off the normal fee for those spots. The service also works to help pair up people living in other parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Despite the reduced fare, business has been slow for Bandwagon, the app run by David Mahfouda and his team of two computer programmers. Last year, he said, 39 people responded, but only eight were able to share four rides. “This year we’re expecting to provide over 100 rides over the holiday,” said Mahfouda, who has relied on social media and word-of-mouth to promote the site. “That’s a 2,500% growth rate!” The firm plans hire two more techies to improve the site, and it’s scheduled to move to a city-backed incubator space in downtown Brooklyn early next year. Ryan Fant, 29, has used the service for several recent business trips. “As someone who goes to the airport a lot, it was a way to support a local entrepreneur and save a ton of money,” he said. “It probably saved me $200 for six flights in early September.” And he’s booked for his flight back home to St. Louis this Thanksgiving. Passengers can download the app, or book online at [email protected] To find cheap events in your area, check out the Daily News Events Calendar. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

These Rangers fans’ spirits will soar! Special flight will ferry Blueshirt faithful from La Guardia to Newark for playoff game

Dozens of lucky Rangers fans will be flying high Saturday — even before the Blueshirts take on the New Jersey Devils in game three of their playoff showdown. Delta Airlines is loading up a plane of fans — and some retired Rangers greats like Rod Gilbert and Ron Duguay — and flying them 20 miles from Queens to New Jersey. “This is our first ever Fan Flight,” said Delta spokeswoman Leslie Parker. “We do sports charters all the time, take fans and alumni groups to bowl games for example. But we have not done anything like this before.” “It should be fun for all involved,” she added. The Rangers fans who registered on the team’s website for one of the 80 reserved seats — and who already have tickets to the game — were notified beginning Thursday if they had a place on the plane. Check-in at LaGuardia Airport starts at 8:30 a.m., and fans will be required to show ID’s and their tickets. But once they get past security, it’s party time. “There will be festivities in the terminal,” Parker said. “It will be decked out with all kinds of Ranger swag.” The flight is scheduled to take off at 10 a.m. And while it will be in the air for only about 17 minutes, Delta estimates that actual traveling time will be about an hour. “Obviously we’re travelling between two of the busiest airports in the country,” Parker said. “We don’t normally run shuttles from LaGuardia to Newark.” Tack on another 10 minutes to get from the airport to the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, and the total travel time is estimated to be about 70 minutes. Game time is 1 p.m., and the series is tied 1-1. The flight is only one-way. A bus will drive the fans back to LaGuardia “after what is hopefully a Rangers win,” Parker said. While Delta’s specially chartered Airbus A319 plane has a cruising speed of 517 mph and the fans Continue Reading

Virgin Airlines passengers trapped on board plane, going from London to Newark, for hours

It was the plane ride from hell. Three hundred passengers were stuck for more than four hours Wednesday on a hot, dark plane on the tarmac. Several passengers fainted in the heat, which climbed to nearly 100 degrees.  The Newark-bound flight, which left from London, was diverted to Connecticut due to bad weather, though some passengers were not given a reason they were stranded. When passengers finally were allowed off the Virgin Atlantic Airlines' plane, they were brought to the Harford terminal, where they waited for two hours to get their luggage before being bussed to Newark. The plane’s generators had broken, leaving the travelers with no air conditioning. Even though it was only 70 degrees outside, temperatures inside the plane had soared to scorching levels.  At least one person had to receive oxygen, said David Cooper, a London resident trying to get to his job at a summer camp. “Everyone was beginning to get a bit crazy,” said Cooper. “A few people got fevers, they were really struggling. Basically, they cracked.” The plane landed at Bradley International Airport in Hartford at 8:20 p.m. on Tuesday, and passengers said they did not get off until about 1 a.m. “After a while people panicked. People started shouting, getting more abusive,” recalled Luke McNorton. “It got a little scary. At times, you thought people might get violent.” Travelers said they were offered water but no food. "It was a situation that was beyond our control,'' said Janine Doy, a Virgin spokeswoman in London. "There were weather conditions. ... Bradley had to get Customs and Immigration to the airport.'' In April, a federal rule prohibiting U.S. carriers from making passengers wait on runways for more than three hours went into effect, but it doesn't apply to international flights like this one. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Give them no quarter as NJTransit is ripping off NYC/Newark Airport travelers

Every day, more than 4,000 people travel between Penn Station and Newark Airport via NJTransit and a monorail. Not to seem picky about it, but NJTransit is stealing 25 cents a ride from passengers. Here’s how: While the joint fare for a train into Jersey and a connection to the monorail costs $12.50, the railroad never reveals that you can separately buy a ticket to the Elizabeth station ($6.75) and a monorail ticket ($5.50) for total cost of $12.25. NJT is proposing new fares today, leaving the chisel in place. Perfect for a two-bit operation. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading