Senate Democrats call on Port Authority to sell real estate
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- State Senate Democrats on Tuesday urged the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to sell the World Trade Center and put the money toward a train tunnel connecting the two states.
Senate Democratic leaders made the call to the agency to sell its non-transportation assets during a news conference at Newark Penn Station along with business and union leaders, a day after Senate Republicans blocked an override of Gov. Chris Christie's veto of a Port Authority overhaul.
Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said that bill, which passed both states' legislatures unanimously last year and was vetoed by both governors in December, would have given lawmakers greater leverage over the authority.
Senate President Steve Sweeney warned that the rail tunnel connecting northern New Jersey with Manhattan is in danger of failing and that its closure could mean economic havoc for the region.
Sweeney did not detail how Democrats could compel the agency to follow through on the plan, but said it might generate up to $3 billion.
Sweeney wants the money to go toward Amtrak's Gateway tunnel project. He says the sale would send a message that the agency is serious about fixing transportation infrastructure.
"We need to send a signal to the federal government that there's a commitment and there's a willingness between the two states through the authority that's responsible for this," Sweeney said.
Sweeney said the authority should not hold real estate but instead should focus on transportation.
He said he discussed his plan with authority Chairman John Degnan and said he sounded "positive."
Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said in a statement that the agency is focused on selling real estate holdings "in order to focus on core transportation mission." Coleman cited the sale of the Essex County Resource Recovery Facility and the Newark Legal Center as examples of that strategy.
This is not the first time officials have called for selling the agency's real estate.
Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommended in December that the agency begin selling real estate not connected to transportation, and Senate Republican leader Tom Kean Jr. has introduced a Port Authority overhaul measure that makes similar provisions for the authority's real estate.
"It's encouraging that my Democrat colleagues are now echoing a key component of my comprehensive, common-ground reform legislation," Kean said in a statement.