Advocates say vital Gateway money being held ‘hostage’

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Experts at Wednesday’s Trans-Hudson Summit cited metal brackets that punctured a train car, plus sparking wires and explosions that recently trapped 1,600 hapless rail riders on two trains in tunnels under the Hudson. They said the century-old tubes need to be replaced by the $12.7 billion Gateway project and blamed toxic politics as the major obstacle.

“We have applied and complied with all the federal requirements for this funding. But at the moment, as we sit here today, Gateway is being held a political hostage,” said Jerry Zaro, a New Jersey trustee at the Gateway Development Corporation.

“This issue here, to me, is a strictly political issue between two individuals: the president of the United States and Chuck Schumer, the senator from New York,” said New Jersey Alliance for Action President, Philip Beachem.

The Trump administration has balked at funding Gateway, saying the application relies too heavily on federal loans for a project critics claim benefits mostly local commuters. A new bid recently submitted by the Gateway Corporation strengthens New York, New Jersey and the Port Authority’s $5.5 billion funding share. And advocates argue that this isn’t strictly a local issue.

“It’s about Wall Street — the financial capital, not of the country, but of the world — and it’s about our national security,” said Beachem.

Port Authority Board Chairman Kevin O’Toole, a Republican, shied away from Gateway politics.

“It’s incredibly important. It’s critical to this country, to this region, that we actually get this project. I’m confident that we have the team in place that’s going to get it done,” O’Toole said. “I don’t want to comment on the politics of it.”

“The political tone is really high. Everybody from New Jersey and New York continue to poke the president in the eye and the chest with all these issues about stopping or holding up the funding, and they don’t respond real well to being poked in the eye,” said Jim Kirkos, president and CEO of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce.

No word yet or how Congress or the White House regards this new bid for Gateway Tunnel funding. The Portal North Bridge is also awaiting final approval.