Bicycle tour guide Joey Lepore says he’s “just another guy from the block,” but he’s become an overnight star for catching two guards asleep at their posts on the GWB. Now, Lepore hopes the Port Authority takes the necessary steps to better protect the span.
“Either these guys have to figure out some way to stay awake, or they need to find a better system,” the North Bergen native said.
If you know Lepore — and many in our area do — you can imagine how uncomfortable he is with all the media attention, including a scheduled interview tomorrow morning on the national “FOX and Friends” program.
“They said they’re sending a car for me at 5:30,” he said this morning. “I told them I’d rather ride my bicycle in.”
Funny, too, because “Joey from the block” (NBHS Class of ’78) has already been on TV quite a bit lately.
Lepore, who owns and operates New York Bicycle Tour, was taking a spin through Central Park on his 50th birthday last month when he was interviewed on camera by the “Good Day New York” weatherman-in-the-street. Weeks later, he captured images of downed trees and other damage in the park caused by a major storm.
Since yesterday, the man who often says “don’t make this about me” has been fielding countless calls and conducting interviews in the shadow of the bridge.
Meanwhile, officials are trying to determine how best to secure the bridge, which the union that represents Port Authority police says should be handled with uniformed officers, as is done at various tunnels in the New York metropolitan area. (See: On the Front Lines versus Terror: Asleep at the Bridge )
For Lepore, the timing is strange. Besides doing magic for hospitalized kids, he has several pet projects going, including measuring the steepest hills in North Bergen and taking snapshots of beautiful areas along the Gold Coast for the PILOT’s “Where Was This Taken?” feature.
More importantly, Lepore is putting the finishing touches on a book about bicycle safety: He’s genuinely hoping to steer attention away from himself and toward helping others.
“If you look at the statistic, bicycle deaths and pedestrian deaths are increasing dramatically,” he said. “We need people to understand bicycle safety better — and that goes for the people in their cars, too.”
Our guardian angel on wheels had safety on his mind yesterday, as well.
More than a month ago, Lepore caught a guard napping. He knocked on the window of the tiny guard shack, waking the man inside, and made the guard promise it wouldn’t happen again. But it did happen again — twice. So Lepore took some photographs.
He wrestled with whether to publish the photos on CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM. Eventually a mutual decision was made to hold off and see whether it happened again.
Then yesterday, on his morning ride to Central Park and back, Lepore saw another guard asleep at the switch.
“I just shook my head and kept going,” he said.
On the way back, the same guard was snoozing.
It took only seconds after Lepore passed by to turn around and go back.
“Enough is enough,” he said yesterday morning. “I got off my bike and went right up to the window.”
The photos, posted on CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM, took on a life of their own: Various media outlets pursued the story. And by 5 p.m., the Port Authority had announced that both guards had been dismissed.
That was news Lepore didn’t want to hear.
“I couldn’t sleep at all last night. I’m not even going to ride today,” he said. “I wish they would have gotten suspended or something less severe. It’s hard enough to find work these days and to lose a job can’t be a good thing. My prayers are for those two guys and their families.”
He understands, however, that he did the right thing.
“This wasn’t the first or second or third time,” Lepore said.
“How much more can I let it go by before somebody does blow the bridge up and I’m sitting here with a stack of photos of someone sleeping on the job? Everyone would look at me say, ‘Why didn’t you say something’?”
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