Port Authority looking to review priorities as the search for a new director begins

Sep.September 30, 2011 11:13 AM

The priorities of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are likely to shift under its upcoming change of leadership and as the agency is undertaking a review of its $25 billion, 10-year budget for capital projects, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Earlier this week, Christopher Ward, executive director of the Port Authority, announced that he would be resigning next month. Governor Andrew Cuomo will be leading the process to find his replacement.

“What we need to do is look at all the projects that are on the drawing board, those that are in the pipeline, those that are ready to go, those that are going and decide about priorities and timing and sequencing, and that’s part of this process,” David Samson, chairman of the Port Authority, said. “Everything is on the table.”

Samson pointed to a deal the agency had agreed to with mall operator Westfield Group to develop retail at the World Trade Center. Under the deal, the Port Authority would spend $942.5 million as part of a joint venture to attract high-end shops and restaurants to the site, while Westfield would contribute $612.5 million. “It requires more cash up front than maybe is wise at this point,” Samson said of the deal. “We’ve got limited resources and we’ve got to do the same or more with less. That’s going to require some hard choices.” But he stated that he was not saying that the deal or any other needed to be changed. Westfield declined to comment. The authority’s flexibility has been hurt by the $11 billion cost of the World Trade Center, the Journal reported.

“There’s no room in the existing capital program and so this is really a challenge for the next executive director, to find the resources and the political will to move ahead with big expansion projects,” said Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association. The authority has already pushed back projects to after 2016 that it had planned to work on earlier, like the reconstruction of the Central Terminal Building at La Guardia Airport. Samson said he wants to examine other ways to finance projects, such as the plan the authority has in place to use a single contractor to replace the Goethals Bridge. [WSJ]

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