Assembly votes to nix Waterfront Commission

TRENTON — Assembly lawmakers today elected to do away with The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor when they passed a bill that would direct the governor to withdraw from the bi-state compact, created in 1953 to combat criminal activity at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

A-3506, which would allow Gov. Chris Christie to break the original compact establishing the commission, leaving New York to fare on its own, was passed unanimously. A similar version of the bill was passed by the Senate in December, and it now heads to the governor’s desk.

Both bills come amid ongoing criticism of the commission, the primary purpose of which is to license businesses and vet potential employees at shipping companies at the port to ensure hiring practices are in accordance with state and federal law. Legislators and union leaders argue the commission is outdated, meant to combat a culture of crime that doesn’t exist anymore, and that its involvement in the shipping industry is crippling to the state’s economic growth.

“Historically the problem was there were some unsavory characters working at the port back in the 50s,” Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) said of the commission. “That’s not a problem anymore.”

With the Commission out of the picture, its responsibilities and operations at New Jersey ports would go to the State Police here, according to the legislation. Legsal experts say the legislation could face problems, however: representatives from the Waterfront Commission have countered that the state lacks the constitutional authority to unilaterally break its contract with New York, citing recent Supreme Court cases that found both states must agree to modification before the contract can be altered.

Assembly votes to nix Waterfront Commission