The Path to Improvement for the Port Authority

Saint Peter’s University always seeks to host events surrounding timely and relevant topics and what could be more well-timed than a discussion on Port Authority reform?

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey affects every business and resident in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area because it builds, operates and maintains a vast network of aviation, rail, surface transportation and seaport facilities. In 2014, both the New Jersey and New York legislatures unanimously passed legislation to reform the Port Authority.  However, this legislation was vetoed in December 2014 by both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Although the New York State and New Jersey legislatures have not overturned a veto in a decade, they are now both considering overturning legislation to reform the Port Authority.

Port-Authority-Event-1As recent as last week, news surrounding the Port Authority has been dominating the media as Port Authority commissioners have not resigned after being asked to do so by the governors of New York and New Jersey nearly two months ago.

The event, “How Should We Fix the Port Authority?,” was held Monday evening in The Duncan Family Sky Room in the Mac Mahon Student Center and featured a panel of key officials who discussed how to reform the Port Authority so that it is more responsive to the region’s needs. The five panelists included New York State Assemblyman James Brennan, chair of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions; Thomas D. Carver ’58, former New Jersey commissioner of Labor Workforce and Development; New Jersey State Senator Bob Gordon of Bergen County, chair of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee; New Jersey Assemblywoman Amy Handlin of Monmouth County, member of the Health and Senior Services as well as the Regulated Professions committees; and Martin Robins, director emeritus of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University.

“Saint Peter’s is bringing together the key players from both sides of the Hudson River to help us solve a regional problem and take advantage of new opportunities,” said Philip Mark Plotch, Ph.D., director of the master’s program in public administration at Saint Peter’s University and author of the forthcoming book Politics Across the Hudson: The Tappan Zee Megaproject. “We are acutely aware of the Port Authority’s importance in Jersey City given our proximity to many of its bridges, airports, seaports, tunnels, PATH trains and World Trade Center.”

Political science and public administration students filled the room along with members of area civic groups to hear from this esteemed group of speakers. While these panelists all represented different states or political views, there was one thing they unanimously agreed upon: there is a need for increased transparency, accountability and integrity within the Port Authority.

“The role of the Port Authority should not be politically motivated, it should be about what is best for the people,” said Carver. He explained further that in order for individuals to have a say in the discussion they need to hold their elected officials accountable.

Handlin, who sponsored the reform legislation in the General Assembly, pointed out some of the current issues with the Port Authority. “In recent years it has morphed into an octopus with tentacles extending out into all kinds of unrelated ventures and one of our most important tasks is to rein that in and cut some of those arms off the octopus,” she said.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Plotch and Nicholas Chiaravalloti, J.D., executive director of the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership. The event was sponsored by the Saint Peter’s University Master of Public Administration program and the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership.