NJ, NY lawmakers eye new commission to oversee Gateway project
TRENTON — A bipartisan bill sponsored in Trenton by the Senate’s majority and minority leaders seeks to empower and expand the Gateway Development Corporation into a formal bi-state commission that would take charge of developing the new rail tunnel and an array of related projects in New Jersey and New York.
The Gateway Development Commission would be authorized to accept funding, should it ever materialize, for the Gateway program that covers nearly a dozen projects in all.
The corporation has existed since 2015 as a cooperative federal/state effort. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, wants to increase its size and role and require it to follow laws for public meetings and public records.
“It certainly builds accountability and openness into the system, which I think is extremely important and hopefully becomes more important as money does become available.”
The corporation’s board has three members, including Anthony Coscia, who is chairman of Amtrak and a North Caldwell resident. Weinberg says New Jersey’s appointee, Jerry Zaro, is an “excellent advocate” – though he lives in New York.
“We’d like to make sure that New Jersey and New York are represented in a little more broad-based way than just three men without much accountability built into the system,” Weinberg said.
The corporation’s board would triple to nine members, divided equally among the two states and Amtrak. New Jersey’s three members would be appointed by the governor, with two coming at the recommendation of the Senate president and Assembly speaker. Much of the bill would implement governance similar to how the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates.
“We have been working cooperatively for years on a bipartisan basis to advance the Gateway project,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union, who said the benefits of building a second tunnel and repairing the current one would include one-seat rides into Manhattan for trains on the Raritan Valley Line.
The bill's sponsors in the Assembly include Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex.
New York is working on identical legislation but faces a time crunch this month because of its legislature’s calendar. New Jersey lawmakers may take up the bill in June, too, but don’t have as long a recess looming as in New York.
The bill, S3918/A5570, is identical to one advanced last week by New York’s Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions. Weinberg said in a news release that negotiations on potential amendments are continuing.
Weinberg said it would be better to have a new agency in charge of Gateway rather than designating the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is involved in big projects at area airports and the Manhattan bus terminal.
“We just want to make sure that that is an agency that is representative of the people and that there is accountability from both governors and the state legislatures,” Weinberg said.