Contin­gents from N.Y., N.J. bat­tle over bus ter­mi­nal

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By David Porter

Po­lit­i­cal squab­bling over a planned multi­bil­lion-dol­lar bus ter­mi­nal in Man­hat­tan spiked again on this week 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, at West 42nd Street and 8th Av­enue, 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 Port Author­ity 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: “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 on the New Jersey side of the span to pun­ish the Demo­cratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., 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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