Port Authority chairman to Newark: 'We're not a piggy bank'

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 19, 2015

Pictured in this file photo is Port Authority of New York and New Jersey chairman John Degnan

 

NEWARK — Port Authority of New York and New Jersey chairman John Degnan said Wednesday the agency has been fair in its dealings with the state's largest city.

"I think we're a net fantastic contributor to Newark already," the chairman said in an interview.

Degnan's remarks follow Newark Mayor Ras Baraka's first state of the city address on Tuesday, during which he said the Port Authority needs to be a better partner to Newark.

"We need an airport and a seaport not just to be in Newark we need them to be a part of Newark," he said.

Degnan said the mayor has been consistent in asking for greater financial contributions to address "Newark's budgetary problems than we've been giving them." In October, the mayor told Port Authority commissioners that the agency should pay the city the lease money it deserves.

"He knows we're not a piggy bank from which you can make withdrawals whenever you need them. I hope, because we're not," Degnan said.

"But we have an obligation to be fair to the city and to be a good partner with them because we are so big in their presence."

In light of the Bayonne Bridge project, Baraka said Tuesday the city wants to see more development in the area, jobs and better environmental cleanup from the agency. The project, which is slated to be completed by 2017, will allow larger ships to pass under the bridge.

"You cannot be in our own home and cook on our own stove...while we sit in the living room and starve," Baraka said.

If the agency does not cooperate in a way that's transparent, Baraka also said his administration would be prepared to put out a request for proposal to buy the seaport.

"It's the first time I've heard that idea but I'd be more than willing to explore it with him to see how we could cooperate with him," Degnan said.

"The Port Authority runs the operations pursuant to a lease agreement that I don't expect to change so any buyer of that property would be subject to that lease. That's my understanding."

Degnan said he met with the mayor personally last year and other agency officials have also met with his administration. Baraka told reporters after the speech that the city wants to audit the Port Authority to make sure the agency has been giving the city its proper payments.

The Port Authority has paid Newark $291.6 million over the last three years, or about $97.2 million a year in rent for the airport and the seaport, a PA spokesperson said. The leases for both the seaport and the airport expire in 2065, according to the agency.

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