Press Release Article

PORT AUTHORITY TURNS 80 Born in 1921, Agency Embarks on Record Capital Plan, Moves on Giant Construction Projects and Generates $45 Billion a Year in Economic Activity

Date: Apr 26, 2001
Press Release Number: 67-2001

The Port Authority - which has guided the region\'s transportation network from a world of steamers, ferries, flappers and flivvers into the modern era of E-ZPass and jumbo jets - celebrates its 80th birthday this Monday, April 30. Agency officials say they look forward to a future of high-tech innovations to better serve the more than 400 million customers who rely on the agency\'s airports, bridges, tunnels and PATH system each year.
\"In important ways, the landscape of New York and New Jersey today was made possible by eight decades of innovation and hard work on the part of the Port Authority,\" said Chairman Lewis M. Eisenberg. \"When the Port Authority was founded on April 30, 1921, the most popular way to cross the Hudson River was by ferry. Cargo moved into and out of the city on barges, and the New York skyline was dominated by the 792-foot Woolworth Building, not the 1,350-foot twin towers of the World Trade Center. That world has been transformed by the Port Authority. And in today\'s competitive global marketplace, it is more vital than ever to have an agency such as the Port Authority, with the resources for long-term, regional transportation planning and investments.\"

Vice Chair Charles Gargano said, \"Today, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey offers a $14 billion capital program that will generate 16,800 jobs and $730 million in wages at a time of feared economic downturn. And each year, the agency\'s airports, maritime ports and other facilities - and the industries they support - generate more than 408,000 jobs, $15 billion in regional wages and $45 billion in economic activity for the region.

\"With a clear focus on its transportation mission, the agency uses the latest technology to manage traffic flow, cargo volumes in the Port of New York and New Jersey are setting new records and our airports provide access to the farthest reaches of the globe for more than 90 million passengers a year,\" said Mr. Gargano, who is also Chair and CEO of the Empire State Development Corp.

Neil D. Levin, the Port Authority\'s new Executive Director and successor to a line of chief executives that began when B.F. Cresson, Jr., took office on April 25, 1921, said the Port Authority\'s agenda today is as ambitious as any in agency history.

\"The vision of New Jersey Governor Walter Edge and New York Governors Charles Whitman and Alfred E. Smith 80 years ago brought the region one of the world\'s first regional transportation authorities that spanned state lines and had the resources to deliver transportation improvements that no other entity, public or private, could match. The continued support of New York Gov. George Pataki and Acting New Jersey Governor Donald DiFrancesco has made possible an extraordinary agenda.\" more

Mr. Levin said the agenda includes the following: · A five-year capital program that will generate $14 billion in spending on improvements to the region\'s bridges and tunnels, PATH network and other transportation facilities.

· Overseeing a program that is rebuilding John F. Kennedy International Airport. More than $10 billion is being spent to replace or dramatically improve every terminal at the airport, making it one of the largest construction sites - and largest sources of construction jobs - in the region.

· Building the nearly $2.7 billion AirTrain rail system that will provide fast, dependable access to Newark International Airport and to JFK.

· The entire fleet of 346 PATH cars will be replaced as part of the bond issue, the most massive Port Authority investment in PATH since the agency acquired and rebuilt the line in 1963.

· A $1.8 billion port redevelopment program, the most ambitious maritime construction program in the region since the Erie Canal.

\"Today\'s Port Authority has changed dramatically in recent years,\" said Executive Director Levin. \"It is focused once again on the transportation improvements envisioned by the agency\'s founders. And the agency has made enormous strides in returning to the principles of private-sector efficiency that were a goal of this agency from its early days.\"

One hallmark of the Port Authority has been innovation, Mr. Levin said.
In 1930, Mr. Levin said, the Port Authority took over the Holland Tunnel, the first motor vehicle tunnel linking New York and New Jersey. In 1928, it opened the Goethals Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing, the first two bistate bridges.

When the cities of Newark and New York realized they lacked the expertise and financial resources to operate airports, the Port Authority developed the busiest and best-known commercial airport system in the world - JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports. One facility synonymous with the bistate agency is the Port Authority Bus Terminal, built in midtown Manhattan at the request of New York City to consolidate numerous smaller bus stations scattered throughout midtown and to relieve congestion.

And construction of the World Trade Center, the tallest building on earth when its twin towers opened in 1970, was an engineering marvel. The 1.2 million cubic yards of earth from construction of the complex were used to create 23 acres of new land known as Battery Park City. \"Today, we are finding ways to innovate and use technology,\" said Mr. Levin. \"We are providing rail access to our airports, and using technology to monitor and improve traffic flow at our bridges and tunnels, to improve customer service and in dozens of other ways.\"

For example, the Port Authority\'s airports have begun using Global Positioning System satellite technology to track planes in the air and buses on the ground, to improve efficiency, reduce delays and provide the highest levels of customer service. One of the principal architects of the Port Authority, Julius Henry Cohen, once recalled that it took years of negotiation, compromise and - on occasion - outright battling to give New York and New Jersey a first, an agency that spanned state lines and that had the resources to build without drawing tax money from either state.

\"With an onion and a potato and some meat we made our stew,\" wrote Mr. Cohen. \"And did it stew. And did we stew!\"

This April 30, Chairman Eisenberg and Executive Director Levin said in a joint statement, there will be no ceremonies to mark the 80th anniversary of the signing of the bistate compact that created the agency. \"Our employees will go on doing what they do every day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day - moving hundreds of thousands of people and tons of cargo through the region.\"