POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

NFL, NJ Transit Skip Assembly Transportation Committee Super Bowl Session

By David Cruz
Correspondent

The Assembly’s Transportation Committee wanted to know what happened to make the mass transit the most unpleasant part of the mass transit Super Bowl. But, barring testimony from the NFL and (once again) New Jersey Transit, who both skipped the hearing, the committee chairman was left to express his frustration.

“We invited Jim Weinstein to our last committee meeting and he called me last minute to say that he was not given permission to testify. I think that’s reprehensible,” said Committee Chairman John Wisniewski. “Ronnie Hakim, the new director, I give her a little bit of a pass for being new, one week on the job, but I do think NJ Transit could have sent people who were involved in the day-to-day planning.”

Instead, lawmakers settled for some of the PR people who were adversely affected by a plan that was controlled by the NFL — and badly executed. Ron Simoncini is president of Axiom Communications, which worked with several corporate and local sponsors.

“The most important thing that we’re going to convey in this mass transit Super Bowl is our ability to deal with the mass transportation, and we failed. That was a great disappointment,” said Simoncini. “Why didn’t we market our state during it? And I think that’s here, you look at the disappointment from this, it’s not that you lose a little money because you have to put 700 cops on, it’s that you didn’t project to the world that this is a cool place to come.”

None of those who testified put all the blame on NJ Transit. They said the agency was pretty much at the mercy of the NFL, which controlled all aspects of the event from security to sponsorships to train schedules. The NFL gave us a no comment today.

“I think perhaps in the future when an entity like the NFL comes in with their game plan, perhaps instead of us saying ‘OK we’re going to operate to your plan,” I think maybe we need to think that through,” said Jim Kirkos, who as CEO of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, saw, first hand, the day’s events unfold.

Transportation Committee Co-chair Linda Stender also expressed disappointment at the absence of the NFL and NJ Transit. She said New Jersey taxpayers shelled out a lot and got little in return. “When everybody starts to pay their property tax bill, you know they don’t say to anybody that holds office it was great that the Super Bowl was here and I’m happy to have helped pay for that,” she said.

Part of the rationale for this hearing was to get answers for the next time the Super Bowl comes to New Jersey, which, gauging from the bad aftertaste left over from this one, could be some time.