Second suicide sparks GWB safety fear
A report on work conditions for the George Washington Bridge’s private security guards is due this week.(Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com)
Days before officials are due to issue a report on work conditions for private security guards at the George Washington Bridge, a second man has jumped from the span and landed close to an area patrolled by the guards. The chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that owns the bridge, ordered the report following an article in The Record last month in which guards said they feared being struck by people and objects falling from 200 feet overhead. That fear was one of a myriad health and safety complaints that, security experts told The Record, prevent the guards from properly carrying out their job securing a transportation link that carries 100 million cars, trucks and buses per year.
The bridge s attractiveness as a terror target was underlined on Friday when two New York City men pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in federal court in Brooklyn. One of the men, Munther Omar Saleh, 21, was questioned in 2015 after he was spotted by Port Authority police officers loitering on the George Washington Bridge on two consecutive days. Port Authority Chairman John Degnan said commissioners expect to be briefed in private on the report s findings on Thursday morning. He added that some of the issues raised in the report would be discussed at a public board meeting later that day.
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Port Authority Chairman John Degnan called the guards’ allegations “concerning” when he ordered the report on working conditions. (Photo: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com)
On Saturday, a 52-year-old man from Fort Lee jumped from the bridge on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. A Port Authority spokesman said that the man s body landed less than 100 feet from a guard booth in Fort Lee Historic Park. The guards make regular foot patrols as part of a round-the-clock security operation. But two guards, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had been told by their employer to limit how far they walk from the booth since a suicide earlier this month.
In that case, a 23-year-old man jumped from the bridge on the New York side of the river. He landed close to the Little Red Lighthouse, a historic landmark within 200 feet of a guard booth in Fort Washington Park.
A security booth (right, light on top) sits at the base of the George Washington Bridge on the New York side. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/Northjersey.com)
The guards employer, Summit Security Services, said it had altered foot patrol routes and ensured that guard booths are out of range of falling objects. Edward Rutter, Summit s director of security services, said Monday: Although officers are not in the area where falling objects from the bridge can potentially land, we took steps to move their patrol routes further outside the risk zone, ensuring they are away from potential harm. In recent months, current and former guards speaking to The Record on condition of anonymity because they fear they could lose their jobs described dire work conditions.
They say that they have noticed some improvements since The Record s first article was published on Jan. 7.
The security booth close to the Little Red Lighthouse at the foot of the George Washington Bridge on the New York side. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/Northjersey.com)
Guards say the heating in their booths has been fixed and that Summit has taken extra care to ensure that their equipment and vehicles are in working order. But they say that issues remain. In particular, they say there is a shortage of relief workers to allow guards to take a bathroom break. Because of the shortage some guards relieve themselves in bottles. They also say that supervisors who usually allow them to make fewer foot patrols during harsh weather conditions have sent them out in extreme weather as punishment for speaking out.
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