Press Release Article


Date: Aug 03, 2007
Press Release Number: 65-2007

Since the 1920s, New York’s Borough of Queens has been home to some of the biggest names in jazz music, including Fats Waller, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Tony Bennett, Chick Corea, and perhaps the greatest figure in the history of jazz, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, whose birthday anniversary is tomorrow.

To honor the borough’s remarkable legacy, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is creating and installing street signs along AirTrain JFK’s route from Jamaica to Kennedy International Airport, as well as banners, information kiosks, a “jazz legends” wall of names, and a piano key mural as part of the agency’s Van Wyck Expressway beautification program. The program, launched in 2000 in conjunction with the construction of AirTrain JFK, also includes landscaping and other improvements along the Van Wyck.

Port Authority Executive Director Anthony E. Shorris said, “As a longtime presence in Queens, the Port Authority is proud of the borough’s rich history – especially its singular place in the history of that most American art form, jazz. So we’re very excited to help show the world what the people of Queens already know: Jazz lives here.”

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, whose district in Southeast Queens includes Kennedy Airport, said, “Queens is the jewel of jazz. The tree-lined neighborhood of Addisleigh Park, a part of the larger Southeast Queens St. Albans neighborhood, has been home to numerous performers including Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Fats Waller, Mercer Ellington, and Count Basie. Musicians Milt Hinton, Mercer Ellington and Charles “Cootie” Williams made this historic neighborhood their home as well. And in nearby Hollis, drummer Roy Hanes, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and trumpeter Roy Eldridge lived a city block or two away from each other. Their neighbors in Springfield Gardens included brothers Albert and Percy Heath.

“All of these wonderful musicians created an enclave for African American artists,” Congressman Meeks added. “These jazz legends created music that took hardships and turned them into hope; as Martin Luther King once said, ‘Jazz speaks for life.’ I thank the Port Authority for honoring our jazz legends who will be further immortalized on banners and signage throughout the AirTrain system, which will inspire young people in our community and across our great nation.”

Borough President Helen Marshall said, “Queens has been called home by world-famous jazz legends from Louis Armstrong to Ella Fitzgerald, and Count Basie to Tony Bennett. Now these legendary artists and their music – a music that is uniquely American – will be celebrated at AirTrain JFK’s Jamaica terminal and on neighborhood streets with posters, banners and signs that hundreds of thousands of visitors and residents will be able to see and enjoy.

“I want to thank the Port Authority, the Queens Economic Development Corporation and all our partners who have worked and continue to work in a united effort to make downtown Jamaica a destination that continues to improve and capitalize on its past successes,” Borough President Marshall added. “Hundreds of millions of dollars in public and private investments have been made in Jamaica, and additional capital projects, zoning changes and traffic improvements are combining to create a new downtown hub.”

Installation of the jazz-themed projects began last month and will continue through the summer.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates many of the busiest and most important transportation links in the region. They include John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia and Teterboro airports; AirTrain JFK and AirTrain Newark; the George Washington Bridge and Bus Station; the Lincoln and Holland tunnels; the three bridges between Staten Island and New Jersey; the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) rapid-transit system; the Port Authority-Downtown Manhattan Heliport; Port Newark; the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal; the Howland Hook Marine Terminal on Staten Island; the Brooklyn Piers/Red Hook Container Terminal; and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan. The agency also owns the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan.

The Port Authority is financially self-supporting and receives no tax revenue from either state.