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Taking shots, part II: An editor learns something

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Allow yourself the opportunity to be surprised and you just might be. After reading an editorial I posted earlier, an anonymous poster called to apologize for some nasty comments about the local cyclist whose photos of two guards sleeping on the George Washington Bridge were published here last week.

Admitting it wasn’t nice to trash him like that, the poster asked whether I’d be willing to take down the editorial. The poster has children and was concerned about the potential ramifications. So I’ve overwritten the piece, eliminating any references or identifiers.

This doesn’t excuse the contemptuous vitriol against a conscientious — and innocent — photographer who doesn’t deserve any of the guilt heaped on him this past week. But it’s reason enough not to make an example of this person.

I did my homework on the security guards: From all accounts, they’re kind and decent men whose judgment admittedly wasn’t sharp, either. I also looked into why they were there in the first place.

Publisher & Editor: Gerard “Jerry” DeMarco

Instead of posting its own officers at the guard booths, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey uses federal Homeland Security funds to subcontract the job to FJC Security Services Inc.

A respected company founded 20 years ago by retired NYPD Officer Frank Califano, FJC has several governmental clients, including the enormous U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), in addition to the authority.

FJC bills itself as “the largest privately owned and locally operated security services provider in the Tri-State area” and boasts “revenues that exceed 100 million dollars annually.”

I would never say FJC couldn’t have gotten this far without some of the Homeland Security federal tax dollars that poured from Washington after 9/11. That would be unfair to the 5,000 or so people who work for the firm, as well as to Califano and his staff. What I will say is that the “terror factor” has created employment in an economy where jobs are tough to come by.

So for some of us out here busting it every day trying to find work, or holding down two jobs only to fall short of covering our monthly nut…. well…. let’s just say photos of guards asleep at the switch aren’t very comforting.

Then to discover that the instances CLIFFVIEWPILOT cited at the bridge weren’t the only ones , followed by our story earlier this week about Port Authority electricians who had a secret clubhouse in the Lincoln Tunnel….Really: Can you blame the authority’s police union for wanting to post uniformed officers instead of rent-a-guards?

The photographer essentially was working for me when he took those shots. I could have advised him to destroy them or to go someplace else. Or I could’ve taken them to the Port Authority, a quasi-public agency that answers to no one but itself and the governors of New Jersey and New York.

Instead, I wrote a story and published the pics. And when other media came calling, I gave the photographer my blessing. I even did an on-camera interview myself, bringing the crew from WPIX/Channel 11 to the waterfront’s best view of the GWB: at Le Jardin Restaurant in Edgewater. (How’s that for a shameless double-plug?)

Neither the photographer nor I requested a cent for the pictures. A photo editor from a large metropolitan newspaper called us crazy, but personal satisfaction at another’s expense wasn’t our intention.

I could tell you, in all honesty, that I was surprised the Port Authority used a hammer instead of a fly swatter, and that I have it on good authority (no pun intended) that well-meaning people right now are trying to help the guards find new jobs. But I’d just as soon not have anyone assume I’m acting out of guilt or self-interest when I’m not.

I mean it when I say I wanted to sit this out, hoping it would all eventually die down. But the damned arrows, and the people who’ve cried “FREE SPEECH” as an excuse to deliberately twist the knife into a man who clearly shouldn’t feel a gram of remorse, finally got to me.

I try always to assume good faith, to give people the benefit of the doubt. That’s why I didn’t identify the poster, either by name or other specifics. I’m gratified to receive such a reply, seeking a fair shake.

Maybe we all take something from this — me, especially.

Jerry DeMarco is Publisher and Editor of CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM. You can reach him at:

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