In Dropping Port Authority Chief, Paterson Putting His Stamp on Development

Governor Paterson seems to be striving to put his signature on development projects around the state, as his decision to jettison the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Anthony Shorris, suggests.

Taken with the top job at the Empire State Development Corporation, the state’s top two posts responsible for economic development are now both free, awaiting appointments of Mr. Paterson’s choosing. Other than those two positions, the governor, now more than a month into his job, has freed up relatively few other top jobs thus far, accepting the resignations of the commissioner of the Division of Human Rights, and the acting state police superintendent.

The forced departure of Mr. Shorris, who oversaw billions of dollars in construction projects including the World Trade Center redevelopment, comes a week after Mr. Paterson declared he would “revisit the issue at Ground Zero” at a breakfast, referencing the potential for delays at the site. It was unclear exactly what he meant at the time, though now the remark seems to make more sense.

Many in and out of government described Mr. Shorris as an intelligent administrator, giving him high marks in his job at the Port Authority. Still, he was said to not have tremendous political acumen, occasionally leaving politicians and officials feeling rebuffed.

Early in his time in the Spitzer administration, he rejected a request by then-Lieutenant Governor Paterson to hire a specific person, according to two people familiar with the matter. He also had a policy not to meet with any lobbyists, a policy not shared by the Spitzer or Paterson administrations.

Mr. Paterson’s decision to fire Mr. Shorris appears to be a loss for Paul Francis, Mr. Spitzer’s and Mr. Paterson’s director of operations, who had urged Mr. Shorris’ staying, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The Times reported that Mr. Paterson is likely to install former city Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Christopher Ward in Mr. Shorris’ place.

As for the other top development job, the chairman’s post at the Empire State Development Corporation, Mr. Paterson has convened a search committee of business leaders led by Sandy Weill. Together, the ESDC and the Port Authority administer well over $15 billion in development in the state.

[This post has been updated from its original version] 

 

In Dropping Port Authority Chief, Paterson Putting His Stamp on Development