The Port Authority and Regional Planning: From Elegant and Powerful Creation to Politics-Riven Dinosaur
Professor Emeritus, Politics and Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs, Princeton University
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was created in 1921 by the two state governments - over the opposition of New York City and Newark elected officials - and given the power to construct and maintain large transportation projects in a bi-state area that included more than 300 cities and towns. In its first 30 years, the PA’s efforts (including bridges and tunnels, airports, and marine terminals) were widely praised, and its independence from close democratic accountability was viewed as a proper sacrifice in order to “get [these] things done.” But then unruly ambition - in the PA’s ranks and in Trenton and Albany - eroded public support, and now the agency seems adrift.
How did the PA go wrong, and how might it have avoided the problems that enmesh it? What is its future? (Should it be broken apart as some suggest?) And what lessons does the 95-year history of this agency offer for urban planners more generally?
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