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BLET member among essential workers honored during NYC ticker tape parade

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, July 12 — To thank the essential workers who helped pull the city through the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City hosted a ticker tape parade on July 7, 2021, called “The Hometown Heroes Parade.” Transportation workers were among the honorees at the event, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) was represented by Brother Art Blakey.

A member of Division 497 (Jersey City, N.J.), Brother Blakey serves the Brotherhood as General Chairman of the Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) General Committee of Adjustment (GCA). With professional and highly-skilled BLET members at the throttle, PATH trains safely move thousands of riders each day between Manhattan and New Jersey.

The parade consisted of 14 floats representing 260 different groups of essential workers, including hospital workers, first responders, educators, and transportation workers, just to name a few. Thankful New Yorkers showed up to honor these essential workers and cheer their inspiring courage and commitment. Brother Blakey rode on the transportation workers float, and said it was an honor to represent the BLET and its dedicated members.

“Having been born and raised in New York City, I feel that a ticker-tape parade through the Canyon of Heroes is one of the biggest honors the City can bestow on someone,” Blakey said.

The parade route — along Broadway in Lower Manhattan — is called the Canyon of Heroes and is the same route followed by ticker tape parades in New York City for the past 125 years. It’s called a “Canyon” because most of the route is lined with skyscrapers and tall office buildings, making the street feel like the bottom of a canyon. “Heroes” refers to the men and women celebrated with ticker tape parades.

In spite of the festivities, Brother Blakey said that his enthusiasm was tempered by the somber reality of the pandemic.

“I might have been just one person being showered in confetti, but I was thinking of the other 177 members on my roster and how they earned this by never missing a trip no matter how many were sick or quarantined due to COVID-19,” Blakey said. “And I was thinking of Brother Anthony Panariello who lost his life in November of 2020 and how this was meant to honor him and all the others who passed away as well.”

Panariello, 49, passed away from complications related to COVID-19 on November 13, 2020. He had been a member of BLET Division 497 for 19 years, and left behind a wife and four children.

Brother Blakey said the PATH GCA and its members have faced many challenges during the past 16 months — both professional and personal.

“From March of last year till just recently, it’s been all COVID, all the time,” he said. “As General Chairman, I had to ensure my members had access to Personal Protective Equipment, make sure protocols were put in place to protect us on the trains and around the property and make sure that they were up to date on how quarantine, recovery and access to vaccines was being handled. All the while, like all Engineers, I had to keep on showing up to work while other people worked from home and agonized over whether the cost of working overtime to provide for my family was worth increasing my exposure to the coronavirus and infecting them in the process.”

Brother Blakey said only two representatives were selected from PATH’s Transportation Division — himself and a conductor to represent the SMART-TD.

Brother Blakey hired out at PATH in July of 2005 and started training as a locomotive engineer in June of 2006. He was promoted from 1st Vice Chairman to General Chairman of the PATH GCA in mid-February of 2020. “I’ve done my best to represent my members with great assistance and support from the rest of my GCA and our Local President and Vice President,” he said. “Being an Engineer isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle. The amount of sacrifice required is great, not just from us, but from our families and friends. We need to make sure that not only Carriers and agencies recognize this, but that new hires respect the job and all it entails when they come in.”

Monday, July 12, 2021
bentley@ble-t.org

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