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Port Authority dysfunction in two states
Thanks to the staff of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for drawing us such a jaw-droppingly vivid picture of Port Authority dysfunction.
It came at exactly the right moment -- as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that, after decades of Port Authority neglect, New York would step in and remodel key parts of Kennedy and LaGuardia airports itself.
The bistate agency has always had a reputation as a bottomless patronage pit and blunt political instrument. And that rap was validated Wednesday by a damaging email trail about the closing of the Fort Lee access lanes of the George Washington Bridge that led dangerously close to the door of the governor's office in Trenton. It unfolded just as Cuomo was spelling out why his office was taking direct oversight of the renovations to Kennedy and JFK.
Under the Port Authority's management, NYC airports are consistently ranked among the world's worst. That's embarrassing and inexcusable. The central passenger terminal at LaGuardia, the only one owned by the Port Authority, is about as modern as a 1958 four-engine Lockheed Constellation. And over at the aging JFK cargo complex, volume has fallen by a third over the last decade. In his State of the State speech, Cuomo revealed his impatience with the authority's slow pace in rebuilding both.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, the emails revealed that a top aide to the governor signaled Christie's political appointees at the authority to go ahead with creating a horrific four-day traffic jam in Fort Lee, presumably to punish the city's mayor for not endorsing Christie's re-election. The phrase "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" is the new code for political dirty tricks.
Christie, who has denied involvement and had dismissed the incident as merely a study of traffic patterns, said yesterday he would hold anyone involved accountable. He should start by demanding the resignation of his top appointee, David Sampson, chairman of the Port Authority.
While the authority always had problems taking care of business in New York, now we know it is clearly good at carrying out political vendettas in New Jersey.