NEW YORK – John Antokas is the Vice President of Pedestrian and Traffic Management with Sam Schwartz, a national transportation consulting firm based in New York City. Antokas has an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from The American University in Washington, DC and a Masters of Urban Planning degree from Hunter College. He spoke with The National Herald about his work on the LaGuardia Airport project, urban planning, and his Greek heritage.
TNH: What was it like working on the LaGuardia Airport project?
John Antokas: Working on the project was a big undertaking as a company as we were tasked to do the planning, engineering, and traffic management during the construction of the airport. My team and I were brought on in the winter of 2016 to find a solution for the gridlock that transpired from Terminal B all the way down the Grand Central Parkway. We had to figure a way to not let idling For Hire Vehicles (FHVs) pick up passengers from Terminal B so that the congestion would ease airport traffic as well as parkway flow. Our solution was to create an off-site “FHV Lot” that passengers would be transported to from the terminal by shuttle, and pick up their FHV ride. We had created the plan and design of the lot and also helped with the management of the traffic flow, and assistance into the cars.
TNH: What were the most rewarding aspects and also the biggest challenges?
JA: One of the biggest challenges of the project was all the moving parts and having them all work in unison. What was most rewarding about the project was knowing that we are helping give the traveler their first or last experience of New York and that we tried to make the experience for the customer as seamless and easy as possible. Another rewarding aspect of the project was knowing that the work being performed on the project now, even as awful as the experience can be to travel through the airport, will be essential for “a better tomorrow” and the future of New York.
TNH: How much impact will the changes at LaGuardia have on the daily lives of New Yorkers and on the economy?
JA: A book can be written on this, but I can give my top 3 impacts that the changes will have on the daily lives of New Yorkers and the economy:
- Safety is always first. The rehabilitation of the runways, taxiways, and terminals ensures a much safer and more efficient experience for customers on the arrivals and departures of fellow New Yorkers.
- At the time, the economy grew by 2.8 percent in the first half of 2019. With New York City as the economic capital of the U.S., this will help bring jobs and revenue to the city.
- Pride! As a proud New Yorker, I want to have my airport known as one of the best in the world, rather than a “third-world country.”
TNH: Did you always want to go into the urban planning field?
JA: I had never been aware of the urban planning field prior to getting into it but am happy that I found it! Looking back on it, I always seemed to have an affection for cities, the way people live, and how people move, so I figured, why not make that a career. When I speak with people who are unfamiliar with urban planning, I tell them, if you have ever played the game Sim City, (which was one of my favorite games growing up) that is my job.
TNH: How does your Greek heritage affect your work?
JA: Greeks invented urban planning, [but] in all seriousness, I feel that the way my Greek heritage shows is in my work ethic. I had great examples growing up of hard work from my grandfather, John Antokas, and my parents, Father Dimitrios Antokas and Presbytera Maria. They had taught me that when you are given a task, you put your best effort in and work as hard as you can to accomplish the goal.
TNH: Where in Greece is the family from?
JA: My family is from Chios. My mother’s family is from Kardamyla and my father’s family from Vrondados.
Follow John Antokas on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-antokas-04715a2a/