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Outgoing Port Authority Chief: "I Was Burned By Politics"

Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - 02:55 PM

Chris Ward, head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

DNA Info's Julie Shapiro has the details of quite a speech outgoing Port Authority Chief Chris Ward gave in Lower Manhattan this morning.

"What I learned, as my hand got singed in the oven, was that you can't raise tolls anymore to what they would have to be to sustain the Port Authority," Ward said Wednesday morning at a Lower Manhattan Marketing Association breakfast.

The Port Authority Chairman is, by tradition, appointed by the New York Governor, in this case, Andrew Cuomo.  Cuomo took office in January 2011 -- Ward was already at the helm, having been appointed by the previous Governor, David Paterson.

It's been long suspected that Cuomo -- who is known to trust a relatively tight inner-circle of advisers -- would let Ward go after the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. (The Port Authority owns the World Trade Center site, in addition to three area airports, several   Hudson River crossings, and the PATH commuter train to New Jersey.)

Despite his almost-on-the-outs status (or maybe because of it)  Ward pushed a toll hike on the Hudson River crossings this summer. Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, of New Jersey, ultimately accepted a hike, but a smaller one than Ward had initially pushed.  As a result, Ward said, he became, in the eyes of the public, the bad guy.

"I somewhat paid the political price of saying [the tolls] could have and should have been higher."

Ward himself believed that he would be asked to leave after the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. But Ward jumped before he could be pushed, letting word leak out of his imminent departure.  Ward himself hasn't said anything publicly, until, it would seem, today, when he warned that a decreased budget for the Port Authority would mean an ever worsening local transportation system.

"You're going to be stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge," Ward said. "You're going to be stuck on buses trying to get into the Port Authority Bus Terminal. You're going to be stuck at LaGuardia and JFK because [they] don't have enough runway capacity."

Cuomo has had a distant relationship with both his transit chiefs.  As Transportation Nation recently reported, Cuomo's schedules show no meetings with either Ward or Jay Walder, head of the MTA, during the first eight months of 2011.

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Comments [4]

Politics Now

Glad i found this blog - i'll be back

Oct. 09 2011 12:55 PM
ML Donovan

It is completely the Port Authority's fault and Ward's in particular. The Commissioners cave to Pataki's political pressure and have been caving ever since.

None of this had to happen. Silverstein was required to rebuild the Twwin Towers -- obviously with all the advancements that were sunk into the morbid Bunker Tower. That was the most fiscally and civically responsible course. That's what a majority of the public wanted and it was strongly supported by 9/11 Families.

Commissioners are appointed for six years. They did not have to cave. Their by-laws provide for an Open Meeting Policy they have abused. They approved contracts that belong in the public domain but they will not disclose them, although required by their own Freedom of Information Policy to do so. Whatever is in those contracts, when they sold the public out, would never have been approved by the public.

The Twin Towers Alliance reps introduced Ward to Twin Towers II designer Ken Gardner in September of 2008 -- right before he put the site on steroids and gave us a bogua World Trade Center. It was explained to him that it was possible to give the public what it wanted, restore the authentic skyline, and at the same time save billions of dollars and years of time.

He couldn't discredit the plan that was even then fully designed and ready to go so he ignored it. Really bad choice. If he had played his hand differently the Towers would be close to completion and it would not have been on the backs of commuters.

He has a lot to answer for and may think his resignation will take the heat off, but if the law is worth a plugged nickel, this is just the beginning of his troubles.

Oct. 06 2011 02:16 PM
PaulCJr

It not really the Port Athority fault. They were pushed into rebuilding the WTC site if you look back to on the issue. While I agree with you Bernie the WTC is causing some of the financial issues, it's not because the Authority wanted to rebuild the WTC site.

Oct. 06 2011 12:30 PM
Bernie Goetz

I hope nobody believes this baloney. The WTC site is headed towards a fiasco in the near future and Ward is deserting before this happens. Cuomo correctly distanced himself from the WTC site. If he had dismissed Ward, Cuomo would have been blamed for the upcoming fiasco.

The reason why other NY/NJ transportation facilities lack funding is because of the WTC site. Truck drivers are well aware of the sudden 50% toll increase. Doesn't a sudden emergency 50% toll increase make people realize Ward has misled them? Instead most media praises him. Probably the best solution now is for NY/NJ to divest itself of the WTC site.

Oct. 05 2011 06:44 PM

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