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Nicole Gelinas
The Port Authority’s Cloudy Future « Back to Story

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SSDDHLfkverhaps one solution is to put the authority out of business. It has served it's purpose of building,financing and operating regional transportation facilities within the Port District. I worked for the agency for 31 year s and believed that the World Trade Center project was out of its corporate charter and the beginning of the agency's politicization. It should not exist as a patronage plum for the. Governors which it is today.
You really nailed it....what a great piece of work.
I spent 34 years working for the Port and experienced the changes in he Port mission. The career employees were apolitical and had to stay out of political circles or business and there were written policies describing the negative consequences. That said, the real problem was the meddling by the politicians, pet deals, a source of non-taxpayer funds(tolls) and the lists goes on. The worst problem were the political appointees that did not have the resumes to oversee such a large complex organization and changed the mission every two to four years. The experienced Port employees' ability to do their jobs was undermined and many left fed-up in the 90's causing a brain drain that could not be filled so the Port began to be what it is today....what a shame. If you want more info crumbling Authority contact the Port Authority Retirees assoc. or reach out to retirees.
Nice article in the post today seems u forgot that thousands of middle class workers will lose there jobs. You conveniently left that out. You keep mention the mob what driver has any connection to the mafia. You are to dumb to realize that this is not about union bosses or owners. It's about hard working middle class drivers who r going to lose there job. It must b nice sitting behind a typewriter in a nice cozy office and leaving out the middle class people. Have a great new year pls if u have any guts u will respond back.
As plans are announced for the replacement to the Tappan Zee bridge, it's worth remembering that the location for the current bridge, at the widest point in the river ((and thus the most expensive to build) was chosen because it lies just beyond the operational boundaries of the PA, and thus could be done solely by NY, which at the time wanted to control the spending, and the patronage..
At least there isn’t any more talk about the importance of fulfilling the Libeskind vision. I think we have to accept the site as a bizarre expensive tourist destination. Returning the sphere would help if its done right. Another improvement would be connecting the tops of Towers 2, 3, and/or 4 with enclosed passageways or skybridges. These skybridges could be invaluable in an emergency and would be desireable for regular pedestrian traffic. Each skybridge could have reversible conveyors and an attached boarding pad on each end. See: http://www.triroc.com/wtc/media/skybridge.pdf
The 9/11 memorial alone cost a billion dollars - and it does not acknowledge 9/11. The underground museum, the only one in Manhattan; Brooklyn has one - to the subway system - cost an additional billion.

Well over 2 billion spent to satisfy the disingenious desire of a handful of oblivious elites to remake the site so that it eradicates all trace and memory of 9/11. The only reason it needs rebuilding in the first place.

Two examples of the vanity and foolishness and the sublime stupidity that drive redevelopment.

It baffles me that no major media outlet has tackled this story.
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All our leadership are lawyers and are great at talking but don’t seem capable of making responsible administrative decisions. Even Spitzer, who was considered independent and among the brightest, eventuallly supported the Libeskind Plan. If responsible decisions can’t be made about this public building project, what about supposed global warming, the space program, defense? I consider the WTC project to have financially collapsed. At least the workmanship is very good on this impractical plan. The commuting public will feel the cost but the general public will consider the memorials respectful and dignified and shrug about the high cost. Many visitors will come but there won’t be repeat visitors. Its part of the decline in the standard of living in America.
Breathtakingly well-researched article about our beloved Port Authority. There is great journalism on the web.
Politicians look good at ribbon cuttings for new subway stations, new buildings, etc. There generally aren't photo ops at a cleaned up subway station, a widened road, etc.

Here in Northern California, for example, Bay Area Rapid Transit endlessly extends further and further into the suburbs with shiny new stations; while its core continues to crumble and it operates with the oldest rolling stock of any agency in the nation.

Part of this was due to pressure from real estate developers in the exurbs to provide transportation, but, again, part is politicians' desire to look good.
Nicole Gelinas's article on the history and current problems of the Port Authority is first-rate. There is one important gap, however; she does not mention the surge of patronage appointments in the past three years, pressed by Governor Christie, who appears to give higher priority to rewarding his friends and political allies than to finding excellent people, based on experience and merit. There are currently more than 80 such patronage folks, though a few have now been forced out due to ethical lapses. Meanwhile, the PA's other "boss," Governor Cuomo, largely avoids the patronage game but sits silent while Christie erodes the quality of their agency.
Absolutely awesome article Nicole. Excellent research job. Thank you
Also, NG misses something important. The fundamental problem on the site was more than Pataki and his LMDC. It was also the PA itself, which required new plans restore as much of the old streets as possible. Any group that required this was obviously incompetent and should not have been calling any shots. The small resulting blocks are not suitable for big buildings. This is why the small blocks were eliminated when the Twin Towers were built. Running Greenwich Street thru the site makes sense, but only if its underground. Also the small streets are awful for security and 6 years after the plan was chosen it was decided they must be blocked off. The small streets requirement which ruined the plan are now to be blocked off. Pathetic. Donald Trump brought some of these things up in 2005 but a mostly ignorant media and public labeled him a self-promoter. Pataki, who called all the shots went traveling around giving talks with a model of Libeskind's ridiculous tower, which means he was obviously a fool, but the NY Times and Daily News supported it. The critics were ignored by mostly everybody, including the highly paid and incompetent LMDC and most of the media. Now the public has to live with it. They will pay and pay.
Cuomo appoints a Spanish newspaper publisher to PA board, nice move. The public is screwed. Does anybody expect this newspaper to criticize the PA? But this newspaper will support Cuomo. Thats what the PA is all about. Maybe Christie is better.

If the PA needs a bus garage in Manhattan have Trump or someone else build it. If the PA builds it will cost 5X more. Don't forget that NJ must have equal expenditures. Total BS.

It would be far better for the public if the PA was broken up. Let the individual entities go bankrupt.

The NY Times, Daily News, and Bloomberg all pushed for this crap WTC project. The Daily News now has reservations. A little late.
What a tale of blunders and stupidity! And it will only get worse when the good government of Bloomberg/Giuliani is replaced by the usual parade of Democratic union hacks - that's the future of New York - Dinkins style corrupt government.

9/11 was a nightmare, but government extended that nightmare by doing nothing about rebuilding the towers site. Ten years we had to wait? The Freedom Tower indeed! The FT is nothing if not a monument to governmental stupidity.

The PA is a patronage mill, existing only as a conduit for its high paid union workers. The rise in tolls is unconscionable - but it's not just high tolls on the roadways. PATH, which used to be the cheapest way to travel in now anything but.

What does the PA DO these days? I'd love to know - the airports are horrendous, as are the bus terminals, PATH station, the GWB and the tunnels are nightmares.

What business in the world would ever be foolish enough to leave wherever it is and relocate here? The PA is just another symptom of how poorly conditions are in the NY metro area. And a storm is coming since once Bloomberg leaves office whatever good government we have will be gone. Then New York City goes back to "begging for bailouts."

The financial sector is already hollowed out - back operations have been fleeing the city for years. Soon enough, all New York will have left is tourism - a true third world culture. And all of it - ALL OF IT as a result of bad government.

We need Rudy!
Read every word of this story. It's so rich with lessons. New York is doomed to crash as certainly as night follows day. Oh the Feds will come to the rescue for a time until even the Feds are no longer able to issue and roll over debt. It is the inevitable conclusion of the social welfare state created by the the party of the people and its collaborators, organized labor. One can wager whether Illinois, California or Illinois will be the catalyst that triggers the collapse and whether it will take five years or ten, but the western social democracies are doomed to financial failure, and you can take that to the bank. Cheers. Terry
I know this isn't the point of this article, but I sincerely want to say that using the AirTrain and subsequent transportation out of JFK is really not that harrowing of an ordeal. As a female non-native resident that travels solo, I have never had such a complicated or unsafe experience as the one described above.

Is there room for improvement? Sure. But is the travel experience from JFK akin to an episode of "Lost"? Not so much.
Whenever your mayor or city planner or manager starts talking about developing real estate with taxpayers money, throw them to the curb. That includes building stadiums and convention centers as well.

I have never seen a town or city government do better then break even on a real estate deal (and even break even is rare). Even if they do make a profit, it won't cover the earlier (or later) losses.

The PA is a huge example of how real estate developing goes wrong for local governments.

Developing has to have the profit motive. Building is far too expensive to build money losing things, because they will keep losing money long after being built.

Even my small town has fallen into the real estate developing trap. There was a out of the way piece of property that was heavily polluted (old gas light plant). Just leaving it be really was the best option since no one lives near it and it was fenced off (and had been that way for 60+ years). Almost nobody even sees it and it hardly prime land (next to train tracks, poor access).

But it was bugging someone at town hall. So they got control of it, cleaned it up at fairly large expense (some from state and fed funds so they could say it wasn't just local money, the "free" money lie).

Thankfully they made no attempt to actually build something. The goal was to resell the cleaned up property and get it back on the tax rolls.

However the asking price for the property is far too high. Many, many times its value (I am a realtor, so I am a good judge of value). They are asking $110,000 for a property likely worth about $5,000. Many existing buildings in the immediate area aren't even worth 100k, let alone a vacant property with a bad history.

Leave land development to the private sector.
Brilliant article. Nicole, dearest, you are a wonderful economist. We all read your stuff. (The lovely pieces on New Orleans made your reputation.)

"Over the last five years, annual PATH ridership has increased by 9.6 million passengers, while 3.8 million more people are taking the bus across the Hudson each year." -- and I have not driven to Manhattan in years. Bus Rt. 190 or 320 every time. The toll system is broken.
You gloss over oddly a key point in your London Heathrow transit comparison: the Heathrow Express costs 1/3 the price of a taxi. The AirTrain JFK plus subway costs about 1/10 the price of a taxi to midtown. Sure, the AirTrain isn't perfect, but at least it is priced commensurate to what it offers in convenience, .
Why focus on the surface issue — what the figures actually are, until they change again — instead of looking at why every component of the development will cost several times as much as it should and take several times as long as it should?

The money the Port Authority got should have easily — easily — been enough to erect 10 million square feet of truly prime office space and the "transit center" which is really just a 4-track subway stop with a metal-and-glass dome plopped on top.

And it should have been able to do it all in five years of actual work.

Indeed, using truly conservative figures for the construction of grade AAA+ high-rise office space in any functioning city — Dallas, Houston and Atlanta and then adjusting for labor costs — the Port Authority should have been able to do it and have more than a billion dollars left over. Even using the construction costs of other commercial projects in New York over the past decade, it should have had enough money.

How can you just waive away the fact that this project will probably end up costing a full $10 billion more than it should with simple and accepting phrases like "costs rose"? It wasn't preordained by the Lord almighty, a holy act that should not be questioned.

The price of building materials hasn't soared. The price of labor has fallen in real terms. So who is stealing or wasting this much money?

How much of it went to the mob? How much of it went to "consulting" agencies owned by people with ties to insiders? How much of it has gone to workers who are clearly on some sort of slow-down mission to make a project that would take 18 months anywhere else take five years? How are the people supplying materials to the site and the people bidding on the subcontracting jobs colluding to rig their bids?

Who can we send to jail? How much of this money can we get back? How is this not the biggest story in New York? Why does the press that is supposed to protect the public think it's OK several billion dollars has been stolen from us via the explanation, "Oops, it cost many billions of dollars more than we expected."

This is the problem, not less money for JFK. Until we figure out why publicly financed work costs several times more in the US than anywhere else in the world, and fix it, there will never be enough Port Authority money to do anything.

Had the Port Authority saved this money on the WTC, it still could not build any train service to JFK. Under current conditions, the ones where one tunnel under the Hudson was projected to cost $10 billion and would have thus cost $20 billion, a fast train to JFK is a $100 billion project. So it's not going to happen, until the underlying problem is fixed.