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 .

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Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, self-sustaining public corporation established in 1921 by the states of New York and New Jersey to administer the activities of the New York–New Jersey port area, which has a waterfront of c.900 mi (1,450 km) lying in both states. In 1917 the governors of New York and New Jersey appointed a bistate commission to study the problem of coordinating port and harbor development for the two states as a whole in an attempt to resolve the many disputes between the states concerning such matters as boundaries, marine police jurisdiction, and freight rates. Out of this group's recommendations grew the idea for the authority, and in 1921 a compact was signed (the Port Compact) that defined a single Port District and provided for its administration by a Port Authority that was to coordinate terminal, transportation, and other facilities of commerce. Originally called the Port of New York Authority, the name was changed in 1972 to reflect the joint administration of the port.

The authority consists of 12 unsalaried commissioners, 6 appointed by the governor of each state. Since the commissioners constitute agents of the state, their instructions take the form of legislative mandates. The work of the commissioners, in addition to administration, includes development, construction, operation, and protection of the Port District. The authority finances its activities from income such as tolls and charges and by selling revenue bonds in the public market.

The authority has been so successful that it has set a pattern in administration. It has given to the inhabitants of the Port District a modern and efficient network of bridges, tunnels, and terminal facilities without adding to the burden of the New York or New Jersey taxpayers. Among its projects have been the refinancing of the Holland Tunnel and the construction of the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel, the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City, marine terminals in Newark and Elizabeth, and the Port Authority Trans-Hudson RR, known as PATH. The agency also administers numerous facilities, including the New York City airports and Newark International Airport, and built the former World Trade Center complex.

Although business in the New York and New Jersey harbors suffered during the 1970s and 80s from the overall decrease in U.S. exports and the loss of customers to competitors in the South and in Canada, by 1985 the volume of exports in containerized cargo began to rise steadily as a result of the authority's commitment to investing in new technology and its shift to a more agressive business and marketing policy that included improved relationships with the government and with shipping and manufacturing companies.

See J. W. Doig, Empire on the Hudson (2001).