Are the Marx Brothers Running the Port Authority?

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 21: An entrance to the Port Authority Bus Terminal is viewed on August 21, 2014 in New York City. The Port Authority Bus Terminal, which opened in 1950, is New York City's largest bus depot and has long been derided as dirty and inefficient. Leaking ceilings, unsanitary bathrooms, late buses and a long standing problem with the homeless have added to the terminals reputation. While many commuters and transportation advocates are rallying for a new terminal, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has announced that they agency plan to spend up to $260 million on maintenance in the coming years. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
An entrance to the Port Authority Bus Terminal is viewed on August 21, 2014 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Just as we were getting a respite from Bridgegate and the Hudson River tunnel controversy, the Port Authority seems to have completed another episode in its long-running series of side-splitting antics: its proposal to replace Manhattan’s decrepit Port Authority Bus Terminal. The premise of this new installment is pure drama: the existing bus terminal on Eighth Avenue is far too small, decrepit, over-run by homeless, and just plain gross. But left in the creative hands of the Port Authority Board, the script for a replacement is pure comedy.

One commissioner said insightfully, ‘We are so out of our league. … We don’t know what we’re doing.’

Last week, the Port Authority Board met in its regular monthly session. After two years of study, a committee of four members—called commissioners—recommended building a new terminal a full block west of the existing location, and selling the property under the current building to pay for the new one. Apparently, the negative impact on the 66 million commuters who use it annually of having to walk a very long city block to get to a subway was not the major objection. Rather, it was a proposal by one commissioner to build the new terminal not in Manhattan at all, but rather in New Jersey—and then require commuters to transfer to PATH trains or ferries. That commissioner was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Some of the commissioners said they were not ready to vote on any specific plan. One commissioner, David Steiner, said insightfully, “We are so out of our league…We don’t know what we’re doing.”

Commissioner David Steiner, an appointee of former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, proposed soliciting ideas from outside the agency, as Mr. Cuomo did when considering how to overhaul LaGuardia Airport. If the board does not seek ideas from others, said Mr. Steiner, “We’re going to make the wrong decision, as we’ve done before.”

Mr. Steiner is absolutely right. Are the Marx Brothers Running the Port Authority?