Randy Mastro’s report investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures suggested breaking up the Port Authority. Empire on the Hudson author and Dartmouth University research professor Jameson Doig told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that around the time the agency started, there was conflict between New York and New Jersey.
“During the period 1915 to 1920, there was a lot of conflict between the two states concerned with the transfer of freight, for example from the Continental Railroad to which ended on the Hudson River,” said Doig.
According to Doig, the need to float freight across to the New York side and the need to to put freight onto ships to send goods to Europe was the inspiration for forming the Port Authority, as a bi-state cooperating agency. It was also viewed as a way to improve the relationships across the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey.
New York and New Jersey have had conflicts, said Doig, but through some of the facilities that the Port Authority runs, it has allowed for both states to work together in a cooperative manner. There were occasional times of conflict or suspension across state lines, for example when former New York City Mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani wanted the Port Authority to give them control of LaGuardia and JFK Airports, according to Doig.
Since the creation of the Port Authority, many politicians have gone through their terms and have worked with the agency. Doig said that Gov. Chris Christie has misused the agency.
“I think it would be right to say that as someone who has misused the powers of the Port Authority, Christie stands far above any of the other governors,” Doig said.
Whether former Port Authority Chairman David Samson worked at the agency to help Christie or not, Doig said that Christie would have been able to accomplish what he has accomplished through the agency because of a bullying strategy.
Doig said that there are several thousand people working at the Port Authority, but it is at the top of the agency where moral problems have originated.
“So there’s a lot of very good people doing a lot of very good work and then there are probably 50 or 60 who shouldn’t be there,” Doig said. “One of them of course is David Samson; he’s no longer there.”
During his press conference on Friday, Christie said that he will consider the Mastro report recommendation to possiblly split the Port Authority. According to Doig, the suggestion to divide the Port Authority might be an effort to divert attention from the key issues.
“If you were to divert your attention from that to the question of breaking up the agency, I think Chris Christie would be relieved,” said Doig. “He’d be very pleased because then the basic problems that he has generated and shaped would no longer be so much in the public eye.”