Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

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PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a self-supporting, interstate, corporate organization of New York and New Jersey. It was created in 1921 to protect and promote the commerce of New York Harbor and to develop terminal and transportation facilities in the New York metropolitan area.

The Port of New York Authority, as it was originally called (the name changed in 1972), was created by the joint efforts of Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York and Governor Walter Edge of New Jersey with a view to solving the problems caused by the artificial New York-New Jersey boundary line down the middle of the Hudson River, which split the natural unity of the port. Because it was an interstate treaty, approval of Congress was required. By the compact of organization, the Port Authority is permitted "to purchase, construct, lease and/or operate any terminal or transportation facility" and "to make charges for the use thereof." Its sphere of jurisdiction extends over a twenty-five-mile radius from lower Manhattan. Jurisdiction may be extended beyond this limit if approved by the governors and legislatures of both New York and New Jersey. A twelve-person Board of Commissioners governs the Port Authority. The New York and New Jersey governors appoint six members each, subject to the approval of their respective state senates. The commissioners appoint an executive director who manages the day-to-day operations of the Port Authority. The leadership of J. Austin Tobin, executive director of the Port Authority from 1946 to 1972, is widely credited for making it a powerhouse on planning and economic development issues within the region and the largest organization of its type in the nation. Tobin's success depended on his ability, with a minimum of political controversy, to use revenue from the Port Authority's bridges and tolls to finance economic development projects that expanded the organization's power.

In addition to running many of the region's bridges and roadways, the scope of the Port Authority's work includes the construction and management of infrastructure for mass transit and marine and aviation industries, as well as the development of office and industrial real estate. Among the facilities built, owned, and operated by the Port Authority are the George Washington Bridge (1931); the Goethals Bridge between Staten Island and Elizabeth, New Jersey (1928); the Lincoln Tunnel (1937); the Port Authority Bus Terminal (1950); and the George Washington Bridge Bus Station (1963). The Port Authority owns and operates major marine facilities in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, New York, as well as industrial parks in Elizabeth and the Bronx, New York. The Port Authority operates the region's major airports (Kennedy, La Guardia, and Newark), all owned by municipal governments. Perhaps the most prominent Port Authority facility was the World Trade Center, two 110-story office towers in lower Manhattan that opened in 1973 and dominated New York City skyline as a symbol of U.S. economic power until they were destroyed in a terrorist attack on 11 September 2001. The site of the towers, dubbed "Ground Zero" in the aftermath of the attack, became hallowed ground in memory of the many office workers and New York City fire and police officers who died there.

In 2000, the Port Authority's cumulative investment in facilities and infrastructure totaled $35 billion. Its budget totaled $4.6 billion, and it employed 7,200.


Doig, Jamison W. Empire on the Hudson: Entrepreneurial Vision and Political Power at the Port of New York Authority. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.

Richard M.Flanagan

See alsoAirports, Siting and Financing of ; George Washington Bridge ; Lincoln Tunnel ; New York City ; 9/11 Attack ; Transportation and Travel ; World Trade Center ; World Trade Center Bombing, 1993 .