In Pricey W.T.C. Deal, Some Consolation for New Jersey

14 23 2010 08 05 eastbath tub 0 In Pricey W.T.C. Deal, Some Consolation for New JerseyOn Thursday, the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is expected to approve a new deal with developer Larry Silverstein to redevelop the World Trade Center. The new package, tentatively agreed to in March, was long fought–for a while last year, such an accord seemed hard to imagine.

In the end, the deal proved a headache for the Port Authority to finalize, and key to the final green light appears to be a maneuver that has a long history in the bi-state agency: a funding pledge to New Jersey.

According to multiple people familiar with discussions, in order to win the support of the Christie administration and the New Jersey side of the Port Authority board, the New York side of the Port Authority agreed to commit significant funds toward New Jersey regional transportation projects when the agency reevaluates its priorities for its capital plan in the fall.

The funding is justified as a means of achieving balance after the new World Trade Center deal, which is valued by the agency at about $1.2 billion in new subsidy and foregone rent. That expenditure is being treated as a New York-specific project, and thus, by the one-for-one logic often employed in Port Authority capital plans, corresponding money should go into New Jersey.

This is not all that unlike the trading that went on for years in the New York Legislature, when a governor and lawmakers wanting to spend money on a large project in New York City would need to devote an equal sum to some project upstate in order to make it politically palatable. (Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno has boasted that this is how he won the money to rebuild the Albany airport.)

Still, it’s hardly the cleanest system in the world to have deals such as this one. In the extreme, such trading paints a portrait of the Port Authority as an entity that is simply a vehicle for two separate governors who spend money on two separate sets of priorities. This is opposed to the ideal: an agency that solely has at heart the interests of the region as a whole, and prioritizes spending on transportation projects accordingly.

The result in the fall, particularly if there is a revenue increase, will likely be more money devoted to projects such as the renovation or replacement of the Bayonne Bridge, a top infrastructure priority of New Jersey (they want it raised up, or replaced with a higher bridge). Presumably this means there will be comparatively less to go around for New York priorities, such as Moynihan Station. 

A spokesman for Governor Paterson, Morgan Hook, said via email that “We do not comment on rumors.” A spokesman for Governor Christie did not respond to requests for comment. 

ebrown@observer.com