By David Cruz
It hasn’t exactly been a bromance, but Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo have cooperated more than they’ve battled. Each has steered clear of the other’s ethical dust-ups. When there was a threat to the region, they made a show of unity and are together again, writing a letter to the bosses at Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration about inspections of equipment. But now, as Cuomo attempts to install his own inspector general at the Port Authority, Christie has been mostly silent.
“I think he’s rather detached from the process,” said Sen. Bob Gordon, co-chair of the Senate’s Transportation Committee.
Gordon is a Christie critic and a favorite target of the governor. He says Cuomo’s proposal, which would appoint an inspector general for transportation, is in direct response to Port Authority Chairman John Degnan’s advocacy of Jersey projects like the new Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, of which Cuomo is not a fan, over Cuomo’s pet projects at LaGuardia and JFK in New York.
“John Degnan of New Jersey is the only person protecting New Jersey interests because Gov. Christie is nowhere to be seen,” Gordon added.
It was odd to some that Christie, who has used his power at the Port Authority liberally, chose his words carefully this week when responding to questions about Cuomo’s moves.
“The New York governor is rightly frustrated by the fact that his Legislature and our Legislature told the two governors what reforms they wanted,” said Christie. “We passed the reforms and now my Legislature won’t do it, so if I were Gov. Cuomo, I’d be pretty frustrated by Loretta Weinberg and Bob Gordon, too.”
Which really wasn’t an answer to the question. Specifically, critics are saying that Cuomo is jumping into a void left by Christie, who has only nine months left in office and has little interest in anything to do with the Port Authority, which runs the George Washington Bridge among other facilities. Christie waves that off.
“Gov. Cuomo has no further control over the Port Authority today than he had yesterday,” he suggested. “The Port Authority is controlled by the two governors, jointly. And this partnership between Gov. Cuomo and I has been more of an equal partnership than any we’ve seen in recent regional history.”
Christie said Cuomo understands that New Jersey is an equal partner and that’s exactly the way he’s acted. “Now, if people really wanted to finish the reforms, then the Democratic Legislature would pass the reform bill that’s sitting in there that I conditionally vetoed to match the New York bill because nothing happens unless they’re identical bills,” he said.
But, many on the Jersey side of the river believe the bus terminal got short-changed in the Port Authority’s capital plan and that Christie is limping his way to the finish line as a one-trick pony, content to let his public offensive against opioid addiction speak for his agenda.
“I have every confidence that the reform measures will be approved by the New Jersey Legislature and become law as soon as a new governor is ready to stand up and defend New Jersey’s interests at the Port Authority,” Gordon said.
Christie’s popularity has been inching upward over the past month. He’s been reaching out to Democrats again and putting some distance between his administration and the scandal at the GWB so it could just be that a fight with the governor of New York over control of the Port Authority is something he’d just as soon leave to the next governor.