Baraka to create Newark office to oversee Port Authority

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on February 24, 2016

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, shown here in a file photo, has announced he will create a new city office to oversee the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

 

NEWARK – Mayor Ras Baraka will create a new office designed specifically to oversee the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, he announced Tuesday, with the goal of increasing dividends for both workers and the city itself.

According to a press release, Baraka will reveal additional details surrounding the move, which he said would assist with a push to have the bi-state agency increase its minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The mayor also made it clear he will continue to pursue an increase in the authority's annual rent payments to the city. Recently, he has threatened to lease much of the 259 acres owned by Newark to outside tenants if his demands are not met.

"I made it clear during my first state of the city address in 2015 that the Port Authority must be a better partner with the city," he said in a statement. "If not, I would seek other suitors for our valuable land by putting out an ROI (Request of Interest).  And that's exactly what we have done."

The authority's payments to the city are calculated by complex formulas outlined in a long-term agreement between the two parties, though a provision in the contract allows for a so-called "true-up" – when the city can examine gross revenues at the port and attempt to renegotiate its terms – every five years.

Newark officials last renegotiated with the Port Authority in 2011, under Cory Booker's administration.

Last year, Baraka told NJ Advance Media that the city had examined the Port Authority's tax returns before seeking additional revenue from the bi-state agency in the form of shipping container fees and other funds.

Newark and the Port Authority have a complicated relationship dating back decades.

In 1998, the city sued in attempt to increase its take on the 259-acre port. The litigation weaved through the courts for years until the Port Authority agreed in 2002 to hand over $100 million in tax relief to Newark, along with $12.5 million annually for capital improvement projects and $3 million in additional rent payments.

According to Baraka's office, the Port Authority provides approximately 143,000 jobs to Newark-area residents, many of whom earn as little as $10.10 per hour.

He is expected to announce additional details about the new oversight office at a press conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

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