Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo of New York are forming a panel to address the future of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, whose operations have been under scrutiny since Christie allies closed lanes at the George Washington Bridge.
The panel will review and evaluate changes to the 93-year-old transportation agency’s governance, management and operations, according to a letter sent yesterday from the governors to the agency’s nine active commissioners. The panel will include two sitting or nominated Port Authority commissioners from each state and one representative from each governor’s office, the letter said.
“Recent events relating to the George Washington Bridge have raised questions regarding management and governance that must be analyzed and addressed,” the letter said.
The authority runs the New York City area’s three major airports, four bridges, a bus terminal, commuter rail, two tunnels, ports and the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. In September, David Wildstein, an official charged with carrying out Christie’s agenda at the agency, shut lanes at the bridge in Fort Lee, whose Democratic mayor didn’t endorse the Republican governor’s re-election.
In February, the Port Authority formed its own oversight committee in response to the scandal. The committee has solicited recommendations from transportation-policy analysts on improving governance. None recommended breaking up the agency.
In addition to management flaws exposed by the bridge lane closing, the letter said that New York isn’t satisfied with the operation of John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports. Cuomo, a Democrat, has assumed management of construction at New York City’s airports to extricate the projects from what he called bureaucracy endemic to the agency.
“New York State took the unprecedented step of seeking responsibility for development at those airports,” the letter said. “Those operational concerns are not isolated and a broad review of the Port’s operations must be addressed.”
The creation of the panel was necessary, though some changes should happen immediately, according to New Jersey Assemblywoman Amy Handlin. The Republican from Middletown serves on the legislative Select Committee on Investigation, which is reviewing the bridge jams.
“We don’t need to wait to implement some very basic reform, such as forcing the Port Authority to operate transparently by making them subject to the same open public-records laws that the governments of both New York and New Jersey are subject to,” Handlin said by phone. “Nor do we need to wait to take steps to end conflicts of interest among the board of commissioners.”
New Jersey commissioners named were Richard Bagger and appointee John Degnan, along with Christoper Porrino, counsel to Christie. Cuomo tapped agency Vice Chairman Scott Rechler and a commissioner to be named later as well as Mylan Denerstein, his counsel.
The panel is required to submit a written report in 60 days.