The Port Authority Follies

I would like to apologize for my seeming neglect of a story that is mesmerizing the nation, having been distracted by events at Sochi – especially the shameful, inexcusable collapse of the USA women’s curling squad (at 1-8, 10th place, or last), even though Canada and Sweden were clearly on steroids. So many astonishing things have been happening since I last looked in on the continuing drama of the GWB scandal.

The most startling sign that self-investigation is intensifying in New Jersey happened during a rare public hearing held by the Port Authority of New Jersey and New York, as I still see it properly renamed, at agency headquarters on Park Avenue in Manhattan on Feb. 19.

Agency chairman David Samson announced “on behalf of the board of commissioners, we are deeply sorry” for what happened on those four days in September when three lanes were shut down for either a traffic study, as the Chairman still likes to refer to it, or an act of vengeance conducted by the take-no-prisoners Christie administration.

Usually, the Port Authority refers to the lane closures, which in terms of trafficology are the biblical equivalent of making the walls of Jericho tumble down, as “recent events,” or “on-going investigations” and the ever popular “the bridge situation.” In this new era of transparency, as exhibited by the public hearing, what happened in Fort Lee has now risen to the level of what Chairman Samson termed in his apology “inconveniences.”

WTF, I found myself thinking, who told them “inconveniences” had occurred?

Secondly, such is the conspiratorial atmosphere as New Jersey goes deep into self-investigation, I wondered who leaked it to them? Only 166 or so days later.

But somehow it got through to them.

As much as the apology is appreciated, despite its being somewhat slow in coming, it’s not as if it’s nothing. That and $13 will get you a free ride on the GWB in the rush hours, provided there are no further traffic studies.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful or question the sincerity of the apologizer, although today’s apologies have been depreciating faster than the Port Authority’s credibility since chief executives or significant others in high command no longer feel they are eating crow. With a little Tabasco and hot sauce, it goes down a lot easier these days.

No matter how deep remorse, and the deepest regrets are, if the apology is truly genuine, and if the PA is truly trying to curry favor with its inconvenienced customers, I would suggest a more meaningful and tangible gesture would be awarding those affected compensation in the form of a free pass for the day, or days, they were so inconvenienced. Ez-Pass computer records could easily determine passes 1 to 4 days worth.

This form of ablution does not address the more difficult to codify mental and physical stress sitting for four hours in the inconveniences. There is still the issue of missed business appointments and the jaundiced eye of the boss hearing the old stuck-in- traffic-jam story.

But it’s a start.

I didn’t hear Counselor Samson apologizing, either, for all the questionable activities of his law firm, Wolfe & Samson, as the newshawks at the Bergen Record and the Newark Star-Ledger pour more oil on the fire of Bridgegate.

Samson, you should know, moonlights as the head of the PA; his day job is a lead partner in the law firm of Wolf & Samson, which moved heavily into lobbying with the election of his pal, the once Magnificent Brontosaurus Christie.

There was, for example, the Hoboken real estate deal Mayor Dawn Zimmer blew the whistle on; the renovation of the Harrison PATH station, and the Commission voting to give another client — NJ Transit — a $1 per-year-lease on a valuable parking lot that previously paid the PA $900,000 a year. That was the sweetheart of all the sweetheart deals Wolf & Samson consulted on.

Space limitations prevent me from going on any further with the good public works of W& S. Suffice it to say, Chairman Samson Esq. seems to be more interested in conflicts than conflicts of interest.

When Samson’s press people gave the ParkingLotgate story the usual STFU treatment, explaining the Chairman actually had recused himself from the NJ Transit deal retroactively. It was explained as a case of “ clerical inadvertence.”

That seemed reasonable to mystery writer Jim Weikart. “And, by the way, I purchased 100,000 shares of Apple in March of 2009 at 99 a share. It was a “ clerical inadvertent error” that my purchase wasn’t registered. Please correct.”

As Rachel Maddow theorized on MSNBC the night of Feb. 20, “And that’s the way things are in New Jersey. Actually.”

In this era of transparence, such as public hearings, I would suggest it would help the public knowing what’s going on if PA commissioners were required to wear the logos of their real estate developer clients on their suit jackets, like NASCAR drivers.

And while I’m in the constructive vein, I would further suggest the Port Authority, as well as Christie administration operatives, upgrade interoffice communications. Why not use drones for those “ important messages?”

Furthermore, to make public meetings more accessible, I suggest in the future they move its venues to a well-known New Jersey center of arts and culture, the Satin Doll in Lodi. Tickets are going on sale soon. Bada Bing!


Marvin Kitman
Feb. 21, 2014

Marvin Kitman is the author of “The Making of the Preƒident 1789.” “George Washington’s Expense Account” by Gen. George Washington and Marvin Kitman PFC (Ret.) was the best-selling expense account in publishing history.