Port Authority Fumes at CB4 Meeting Not Due to the Buses

Congressmember Jerrold Nadler addressing the May 4 meeting of Community Board 4. | SEAN EGAN
Congressmember Jerrold Nadler addressing the May 4 meeting of Community Board 4. | SEAN EGAN

BY SEAN EGAN | If the tenor of the most recent Community Board 4 meeting is any indication, the proposed expansion — and possible relocation — of the Port Authority Bus Terminal will be a big and divisive agenda item there for quite some time to come.

Throughout the May 4 gathering, the general atmosphere was one of hostility toward the renovation of the outdated terminal, especially regarding the threat of eminent domain — the process by which the city or state government takes control of private property for a specified “public purchase.” Amidst discussion of contingency plans and repeated jabs at the Port Authority’s expense, it became clear the situation has been weighing heavily on the minds of residents, elected officials, and CB4 members — all of whom are preparing for a long fight.

The subject came up almost from the meeting’s outset. After introductory words, the public comment session was opened up with some passionate thoughts from West 45th Street resident Tom Cayler, who wasted no time in railing against the “PA: the Pathetic Authority,” as he referred to the agency.

Cayler thanked CB4 chair Delores Rubin and the board overall for helping to put together an April 18 town hall meeting among community members, elected officials, and Port Authority officials. As Manhattan Express reported then, the meeting saw hundreds of residents come out to speak and offer suggestions — such as one particularly popular solution: building the new terminal in New Jersey’s Meadowlands and constructing a light rail connection into Manhattan.

“This is only the first shot in the battle,” Cayler asserted, while going on to decry the Authority’s inefficient operation of the Lincoln Tunnel.

Shortly after Cayler’s comments, US Representative Jerrold Nadler, a West Side Democrat, made a surprise appearance to update the community on a variety of matters he is working on. While his remarks were well received, when he was done, he immediately faced questions about the bus terminal expansion.

“I don’t like their plan,” Nadler said without hesitation. “I certainly don’t like this use of eminent domain that’s been threatened.”

Nadler indicated, however, that the situation might have no easy solution, and he lamented “poisonous” tensions between New York and New Jersey in the governing of the Port Authority.

Even as he said the Authority “can’t do anything to Jersey,” he added, “It’s not a zero sum game. It’s not New Jersey versus New York.”

Saying he hoped level heads would prevail and some compromise could be reached, Nadler reiterated his opposition to the way eminent domain threatens the surrounding neighborhood.

“We have to fight this. I don’t like this proposal,” Nadler concluded, in no uncertain terms, to applause. “We will fight this.”

Those items on the evening’s agenda that dealt specifically with the Port Authority situation also drew spirited, even heated words about the prospective project and the board’s potential course of action going forward.

A proposed letter to the Port Authority concerning the April town hall provoked board member Maarten de Kadt to advocate for stronger wording regarding the support of nearby neighborhoods for the situation facing Hell’s Kitchen.

“It’s going to affect not just Hell’s Kitchen, but all of us,” de Kadt said.

JD Noland, the board member who authored the letter, responded by saying he had aimed to keep it narrowly argued but he guaranteed that a broader focus would grace “the next letter,” laughing that the board would send “one a month” to continue its campaign against the terminal. The letter was then approved unanimously.

During a discussion about a letter addressed to elected officials about the bus terminal expansion, board member Betty Mackintosh suggested that CB4 needed to have a presence at future Port Authority meetings, saying members must “go to board meetings and stand up and make comments.” Rubin agreed with her sentiment, saying, “We need to get T-shirts made.”

“This will be the first of many to our elected officials,” Rubin said sternly.

Even though the board meeting lasted shorter than is typical, it’s clear that CB4 is gearing up for a long battle against the Port Authority and will not back down easily.