Anthony Coscia took over as chairman of the Port Authority in 2003, when the bistate agency still was recovering from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The wounds from that assault will never truly heal, but Mr. Coscia’s calming presence and professionalism helped the Port Authority move from grief and shock to recovery and revival.
Mr. Coscia’s tenure as the agency’s chairman ended the other day when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie replaced him with former New Jersey attorney general David Samson, although Mr. Coscia will continue to serve on the authority’s board. During his tenure–the longest chairmanship of the authority in recent history–Mr. Coscia developed a long-term, $29.5 billion master plan that will modernize the region’s transportation system and influence commuting patterns for the rest of this century. But his enduring legacy surely will be his efforts to redevelop ground zero, a task that required diplomacy, compassion and sheer determination. Fortunately, Mr. Coscia was well suited to that task. Progress at the site is due in no small part to Mr. Coscia’s patience and ability to work with all of the site’s stakeholders.
Mr. Coscia’s achievements are easy to overlook because he managed to call very little attention to himself during his years at the authority’s helm. But anybody with an interest in moving people and goods around the New York metropolitan area–and that includes multiple millions of people–owe him a debt of gratitude for his vision and his leadership. He stepped into a terrible, tragic situation at the Port Authority eight years ago. And while the heartbreak of 9/11 was beyond his–or anybody’s–ability to make whole, he quietly went about the task of rebuilding and moving forward. It was no easy assignment, but he performed it with quiet competence. Well done.