New York Port Authority Reveals More Subpoenas in Filing

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey disclosed an expanded list of state and federal subpoenas it’s received as part of investigations that stem from intentional lane closings at the George Washington Bridge.

In a bond prospectus dated Aug. 6, the agency listed subpoenas seeking information about its activities at properties including a port in Brooklyn, the Atlantic City airport and a former military terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey. It also includes inquiries about projects already known to be subjects of interest, such as the financing of repairs on the Pulaski Skyway, the project to raise the Bayonne Bridge and the affair last year known as Bridgegate.

The disclosures mark the fullest accounting yet of the scope of the probes by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and a legislative committee in New Jersey. Revelations about the agency have triggered the resignations of three officials and the creation of a panel assembled by the governors of both states to study its management structure.

“This was an agency in crisis and hopefully with some new leadership they’re going to start turning it around,” New Jersey Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat who is co-chairwoman of the legislative investigation panel, said in a telephone interview. “It’s about transparency and ethics.”

Patronage Source

The Port Authority, which runs the New York area’s three major airports, four bridges, a bus terminal, commuter rail, two tunnels, ports and the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, for decades has been a source of patronage and perks. Its dealings have drawn intense scrutiny since New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was ensnared by accusations that his allies engineered traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge in September as retribution against a mayor who didn’t support his re-election.

Reports of conflict of interest, political abuse and interstate rivalry spawned the efforts by governors Christie and Andrew Cuomo of New York to form the panel in May to address the future of the agency.

Chris Valens, a Port Authority spokesman, didn't respond to a request for comment on the filing.

Laundry List

The list of projects under scrutiny fills almost an entire single-spaced page, and touches on every area of the agency’s endeavor.

In Bayonne, the authority in 2010 paid an above-market price of $235 million for a waterfront tract, with the infusion of funds helping to keep the city from going bankrupt and costing the state millions, the New York Times reported in June.

Last year, the authority said it would take over operations of the Atlantic City International Airport from the South Jersey Transportation Authority. State and city leaders have long lamented that a lack of air service has hobbled Atlantic City’s efforts to attract mid-week conventions.

In November, Christie and David Samson, an ally and former authority chairman, joined United Airlines Chief Executive Jeff Smisek in announcing the airline would add service to the airport from regional hubs.

In Brooklyn, the Port Authority’s terminals handle freight containers and cruise ships. In 2009, the authority signed agreements with New York City to allow for continuous operation there of a cruise terminal and a warehouse distribution center.

More Transparency

In several instances, the filing details subpoenas related to Samson. The records sought included policies on recusals and conflict of interest guidelines for Port Authority officials, according to the documents.

Samson resigned in March after a report commissioned by Christie’s administration sought to clear the governor of any connection with the lane closings. Christie chose John Degnan, a former state attorney general and chief operating officer of Chubb Corp., to replace Samson.

A woman who answered the telephone at Samson’s West Orange law office said he would have no comment.

Weinberg said she and lawmakers in New Jersey and New York are seeking to require the agency to follow open public records acts and require annual reports to the legislatures. The changes, she said, would “bring a spotlight to bear.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.