Bloom busters: Valentine’s flowers run gauntlet at JFK

Bloom busters: Valentine’s flowers run gauntlet at JFK
Theresa Carrol, an agricultural inspector for the Customs and Border Protection Service, checks out a load of flowers from the Netherlands. Fifteen to 20 loads a day come pouring into JFK Airport in the run-up to Valentine’s Day.
Photo by Michael Shain


In a cargo warehouse at the edge of JFK Airport, palettes of fresh-cut flowers from around the world pour in like Volkswagons coming off the assembly line.

Valentines is the busy season for Customs and Border Protection, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security whose job it is to make sure no eight-legged illegals — bugs, that is — get into the country.

Mother’s Day is sort of busy, too, says Customs Branch Chief Robert Redes, looking over a boxes of amarylis, orchids and assorted other blooms that had been pulled from a shipment that arrived a few hours before from the Netherlands. “But not like this,” he says.

A few shipments of flowers come into Kennedy, a major port of U.S. entry second only to Miami, every day, he says. But in the week before Valentine’s Day, there are 15 to 20 planes a day loaded with flowers landing in Queens.

Theresa Carrol, an agriculture inspector who works the busy night shift for Customs, says she has not lost her love for flowers — even after 6 1/2 years of doing this work.

But her husband knows not to get her flowers for special occasions anymore. “I get chocolate,” she says.

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