It collects the tolls you pay at many of the region's bridges and tunnels. It operates LaGuardia, JFK and Newark Airports, and it builds and maintains some of the biggest development projects around New York, including the World Trade Center. And yet few people really understand the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The region's only bi-state authority has a budget larger than 26 U.S. states -- but has little to no public accountability. We learned that this fall when a Port Authority official was able to order -- with no notice -- traffic-paralyzing lane closures leading up to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee.
"They usually quietly divide up the appointments, they divide up the board positions, they divide up the contracts that flow from that," said WNYC metro editor Andrea Bernstein,"and nobody really blows the whistle on anybody else because that could jeopardize one or the other governor's powers or ability to get the things he wants."