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Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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