Op-Ed: The Port Authority Needs To Start Over On Replacing Manhattan's Bus Terminal
Washington, DC, August 24, 2016
Published August 24, 2016 in New York Daily News:
Let’s be frank: Our transportation infrastructure, the engine and lifeblood of any region, is underfunded and woefully underserved. The Port Authority Bus Terminal, one of the largest and busiest terminals in the world, accommodates 232,000 passengers and more than 7,000 bus movements every weekday, and it desperately needs improvement.
As we look to replace the terminal, we have an opportunity to re-think and transform our regional transportation in order to find solutions that work for the public it is intended to serve, as well as the region as a whole.
We all agree that there should be a new bus terminal in Manhattan, but we need to plan for it responsibly. Early cost projections range from $7.5 billion to over $10.5 billion, so there is an obvious need and legitimate concern to make sure that we find a solution that works for everyone.
Some reports have tried to paint our concerns about the process that the Port Authority has created as a battle between New York and New Jersey. We do not view it this way. In fact, it is the Port Authority who has attempted to pit New York against New Jersey by explicitly amending its original Design + Deliverability Competition parameters to say “No bus terminal will be built in New Jersey.” That is counterproductive.
What the Port Authority has done to date is anything but considerate of taxpayers, commuters or its neighbors. As we plan for the bus terminal’s replacement, no alternatives should be off the table.
The Port Authority has set itself to pursue a single course of action from the start for terminal relocation that is based on a draconian and expensive use of eminent domain. They did this without looking into how the project interacts with the planned Gateway rail tunnel, or with a revamped Penn Station, or completing its own Trans-Hudson Commuting Capacity Study, or consulting anyone outside its own bureaucracy.
As elected representatives, it is incumbent on us to make sure that the people who must live with the bus terminal replacement are given a chance to have a say — something the Port Authority has gone to great lengths to make sure does not happen.
Residents on both sides of the river need look no further than the series of “stakeholder meetings” the Port Authority has tried to slap together this month after being called out for skipping basic planning steps like talking to affected communities. The Port Authority issued a set of guidelines for these meetings as unfair and undemocratic as the course of action that would use eminent domain in an area with historic buildings, affordable housing, many locally owned businesses, and a church. One of the guidelines goes so far as to state, “Competitors are also not expected to answer any inquiry or questions.”
With rules like these, how can we feel any confidence that the Port Authority is looking out for the residents of both New York and New Jersey?
The days when major infrastructure decisions were made behind closed doors, and eminent domain was used to destroy and displace local communities with little regard for their impacts, should be long gone. That is why we have demanded the immediate termination of the Design + Deliverability Competition until proper planning can be completed, all alternatives studied — and the Port Authority allows input that gives the public a real voice in its future.
New York and New Jersey are in desperate need of modern transportation facilities, but good public planning doesn’t rely on shutting out public discussion or a refusal to explore alternatives. We cannot allow short-sightedness to condemn generations of future neighbors and commuters to pollution-clogged neighborhoods and endless seas of traffic. That is not right, it is not acceptable, and we will not allow this project to continue so long as the PABT ignores local communities in this way.
Congressman Jerrold Nalder (NY-10); Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer; New York State Senator Brad Hoylman; New York State Assemblymember Richard N. Gottfried; New York State Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal; and New York City Councilmember Corey Johnson.
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