Christopher Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, intends to resign by the end of October, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who declined to be identified before Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office responded.
The move follows months in which Cuomo signaled a lack of support for Ward and parallels a July announcement from Jay Walder that he was leaving as chairman and chief executive officer of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the largest U.S. transit agency.
Their departures mean New York’s Cuomo must find leadership to develop transportation policy as regional population growth, aging infrastructure and declining revenue strain both agencies.
Ward’s standing with the governor became clear in May when Cuomo didn’t take part in a ceremony closing a deal for Conde Nast Publications Ltd. to rent space in One World Trade, the 1,776-foot-high office building at the World Trade Center replacing the fallen Twin Towers, the person familiar with the situation said late yesterday.
Two days after the Conde Nast announcement, the New York Post reported that Cuomo was “planning to boot” Ward after the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“We have no plans to replace him at this time,” Joshua Vlasto, Cuomo’s spokesman, said in a June interview in Albany. He declined to comment last night. Port Authority spokesman Steven Coleman didn’t return calls seeking comment.
Ward, a former environmental protection commissioner in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, took control of the Port Authority in May 2008 as an appointee of Cuomo’s predecessor, Governor David Paterson.
The Port Authority is overseen by a board appointed by the governors of New York and New Jersey. In addition to the World Trade Center, it runs PATH, a commuter rail line connecting New Jersey with Manhattan under the Hudson River; five regional airports including LaGuardia and Kennedy International; the George Washington Bridge; three spans between Staten Island and the Garden State; two highway tunnels under the Hudson, and five marine-shipping facilities including Port Newark.
Removing Ward as construction at the World Trade Center has begun to progress may impair the authority’s momentum, Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, said in a June interview.
Yaro, whose civic group has influenced regional transportation policy since it advocated construction of the George Washington Bridge in 1932, said Ward had mastered the “folkways” of his agency “in a way that’s not been done since Austin Tobin,” who served in the job from 1942 to 1972.
The Port Authority, whose board raised bridge and tunnel tolls by 56 percent over five years last month, has about $13.8 billion in outstanding bonds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In December, it approved a $7.2 billion budget with no spending increases for the third consecutive year. The plan included $3.9 billion in capital expenses and reduced the workforce by 200 positions to 6,777, the lowest level in 40 years.
New York’s mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
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