By Erin Delmore
A who’s who of New Jersey elected officials from both parties took the podium at the Bergen County seat of government Wednesday, all with the same message to send across the Hudson: move forward on fixing the Port Authority Bus Terminal and lay off Port Authority Chairman John Degnan.
“This is a partnership. This should not be a fight with New York. It shouldn’t be us against them. It should be us working together because the people of New Jersey working are paying taxes in New York, that are working in New York. It’s a regional economy. And these type of facilities needed to be added to ensure our people can move safely between the two states,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
New Jersey and New York lawmakers have been embroiled in heated back-and-forth over an agreement to build a new bus terminal on the west side of Manhattan. The one passengers use today is the largest transit hub in the United States, the busiest in the world.
“The Port Authority needs to live up to its commitments,” said Bergen County Executive James Tedesco.
The New Jersey lawmakers charge New York officials with reneging on a deal to improve the transit hub. State Sen. Loretta Weinberg said officials from both states were on the same page not more than a few weeks ago.
“Then two weeks ago as staff from both states were working on statement of agreement summarizing the results of the meeting, New York officials in the most bizarre manner launched an attack on Chairman John Degnan,” she said.
In a letter, New York elected officials said Degnan — the top New Jersey appointee to the bi-state Port Authority board — “appears to be continuing to pursue a replacement bus terminal that uses eminent domain” and that he “skewed the terminal planning process” for personal gain. Weinberg refuted both claims.
“It made no sense to us at the time until we received information that the 180 degree turn was made at the behest of Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo,” she said. “This is not about process, this is not about the project, this is a governor attempting to take control of the Port Authority through manipulation, intimidation and bullying.”
“We see a governor trying to really develop his own capital budget to advance his pet projects, specifically the plans for a boutique hotel and new facilities at LaGuardia Airport,” said Sen. Bob Gordon.
Sweeney said the Port Authority, “had a BS capital plan” that didn’t include a new bus terminal. He credited Degnan for getting the transit hub on the agenda. Sweeney said the $2 billion price tag estimate won’t cut it.
“Two billion dollars guarantees the bus terminal won’t be built until 2027. Unacceptable. I feel should be $6 billion to $8 billion,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney added, he knows for a fact Gov. Chris Christie’s been in contact with Gov. Cuomo on the issue. The governor’s office wouldn’t confirm that. We reached out to the other New York lawmakers who signed on to the letter. No one wanted to talk.
We talked to every New York official who signed on to those letters criticizing Chairman Degnan. No one was willing to discuss the issue with us. We also reached out to the chairman of the Port Authority — no comment.