New York, New Jersey still split over bus terminal project
NEW YORK -- Political squabbling over a planned multibillion-dollar bus terminal in Manhattan spiked again on Thursday as lawmakers on both sides of the Hudson River lobbed accusations of sabotage and double dealing.
At stake is a projected replacement for the Port Authority Bus Terminal, estimated to cost at least $10 billion. The new terminal would replace one that is six decades old and is criticized as functionally obsolete in addition to being an eyesore.
New Jersey lawmakers have pushed for the project on behalf of the more than 100,000 commuters from the state who use the terminal each weekday, and they have opposed a proposal to locate it in northern New Jersey. Their New York counterparts have objected to a plan to put a new terminal a block west of its current location, saying it will require the taking of property by eminent domain and destroy the neighborhood's fabric.
In a letter dated Tuesday, several members of the New York contingent including Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler accused Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairman John Degnan, an appointee of Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, of not negotiating in good faith and asking that he be recused from the project because he has put his "personal priorities above the public interest."
The letter also charged New York's city and state officials have "continued to be regarded as an afterthought by the Chairman." Nadler, Democratic Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and others previously expressed their opposition to the Port Authority's plan at a board meeting in July.
Meanwhile, Port Authority Vice Chairman Steve Cohen, an appointee of Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was conspicuously absent from Thursday's monthly board meeting. Executive Director Patrick Foye, also a Cuomo appointee, acted as Cohen's proxy and said Cohen had stayed away over his frustrations with negotiations over how to fit the bus terminal into the Port Authority's 10-year capital plan.
Speaking after the board meeting, Degnan called the New York contingent's letter "astounding" and "a broad, insulting shot at both me and the process." He denied any personal motivations in pushing for the new terminal and said the agency has committed to including money for the bus terminal and major improvements at LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports in the capital plan.
Democratic New Jersey state Sen. Bob Gordon, in comments to the Port Authority board Thursday, implied the letter demonstrated Cuomo's intention to derail the bus terminal project.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi responded that New York is unified in its position.
"Everyone agrees that the bus terminal has to be improved, but it's a New York project and we have never had one state dictate what should be built in the other," he said in an email.
He added, in an apparent reference to the recent George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal criminal case: "The intrigue out of Jersey is troubling, especially in light of the recent past."
Two former Port Authority officials who were Christie allies face prison sentences in a plot to close bridge access lanes to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for not endorsing Christie for re-election. Christie wasn't charged and denies any prior knowledge of the scheme.
The bus terminal, the country's busiest, wasn't included in the Port Authority's 10-year capital plan in 2014, raising the ire of commuters and New Jersey lawmakers. The agency has committed to redrawing the plan to include the terminal and had hoped to have it ready for public comment by now, but Foye said it won't be ready until next year.
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