The plan to replace the antiquated and inadequate Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan has been driven into a river of political discord between New York and New Jersey officials.
Some New York lawmakers are indignant about Port Authority’s New Jersey chairman John Degnan's plan to push forward the $10 billion project, and released what they maintain are pre-mature design proposals. One primary concern: he had not ruled out the possibility of using eminent domain to secure the territory in Midtown Manhattan.
Port Authority VIce Chairman Steve Cohen abruptly resigned. And another group of lawmakers wrote a letter rescinding their March consent for the project on the grounds that Degnan did not conduct appropriate environmental impact studies before authorizing a design competition.
“We have seen what happens when politics drives the Port Authority’s decisions and will not let a single individual’s political needs drive important regional decision making,” read the Nov. 16 letter to Degnan, which was signed by Congressman Jerry Nadler and several other are lawmakers.
“He’s acting very tyrannically,” Nadler told the New York Daily News. The proposed bus depot would be in Nadler’s district, and he fears that the behemoth would entail seizing private property without approval from the community.
Degnan replied to the letter promptly. “Your characterizations of my actions are completely unfounded and I am truly disappointed in your abrupt change in our recently agreed decision to move forward collaboratively,” he wrote in response, the Real Deal reported.
The office of New York Gov. Cuomo acknowledged the difficulties of determining who can authorize the project. “Everyone agrees that the bus terminal has to be improved, but it's a New York project and we have never had one state dictate what should be built in the other,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told the Daily News.
Cohen, who boycotted and a monthly board meeting last week and then resigned from his post, articulated the concern echoed among his colleagues on the New York City side that the controversy could devolve into a “Busgate” scandal, as he perceives a conflict of interest involving Degnan’s son, Phillip James Degnan, who this year was confirmed to a post in the Gov. Chris Christie administration.
Christie has been particularly dogged in his intentions to improve infrastructure, and share the costs with other entities.
Although some NYC-side officials take umbrage that Degnan did not disclose his son’s appointment to the Port Authority board, he rejects the suggestion of a possible conflict of interest.
“The unanimous March 2016 board vote to proceed with the project came after more than 18 months of work by Port Authority staff committed to the mission of this agency,” Degnan said to the Daily News. “It was in no way influenced or motivated by any political objective. I am insulted by any inference to the contrary.”