Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, defended the authority’s police officers today against criticism from a leading New York City mayoral candidate who called them “nothing more than mall cops.”
In a City & State “Newsmakers” interview, Foye was asked about the lack of attention on the Port Authority in the New York City mayoral race. The interviewer suggested that the most attention that the Port Authority has received was Republican candidate Joe Lhota’s criticism in May of the Port Authority police as “mall cops.”
“Joe Lhota was a colleague and I hold him in high regard,” Foye said during the interview, which was held at 7 World Trade Center. “I think he has apologized appropriately for his mall cop comments. I will note on the site behind me, 37 members of the Port Authority Police Department were murdered that day along with thousands of other people, so I don’t think I have to defend the Port Authority police and their role here because I think their service over the last 90 some odd years to the Port Authority speaks for itself. … If your question is, am I angling for the Port Authority to become a big issue in the mayoral election, then, ah, next question.”
The event, sponsored by Global Gateway Alliance, focused mostly on the New York City area’s three major airports–LaGuardia, JFK and Newark–which have some of the worst flight delays in the country.
Foye pointed to efforts underway to ease the congestion. He announced a request for proposals for a new Central Terminal at LaGuardia Airport, the only terminal that the Port Authority actually operates in the New York City area. Foye also said that the Port Authority, which has been evaluating private sector bids, planned to start construction on the $3.5 billion project in about a year.
“We’ve got a plan,” Foye said. “We will be issuing an RFP sometime later this month. We have pre-qualified four, I think world class bidders for the Central Terminal building. And that RFP I mentioned will go out sometime this month, construction will start around this time next year and that is about a $3.5 billion project.”
He said that the project would create a lot of construction jobs, boost economic activity, improve customers’ experience and increase capacity without adding a new gate or a new runway.
“I am not proud of its condition,” Foye said. “We all fly in and out of it frequently. That’s the terminal that currently accommodates American and United and Jet Blue and some other smaller carriers. It’s obsolete. It serves way more people than it was designed for.”
One ongoing challenge that Foye touched on is the struggle over passenger facility charges, which help fund airport capital investments. The $4.50 fee is assessed on airline tickets, and some have called for raising it, perhaps to $8, as federal airport funding is cut. Airlines oppose such a move, which they say would hurt their bottom line.
“I think the $220 million we get out of PFCs, we are a wise custodian of,” Foye said. “And I think there ought to be a serious debate, it is a discussion we have had with the Global (Gateway Alliance) folks as well as members of the congressional delegation, as to whether the PFC ought to be looked at from a level point of view. Perhaps indexing to inflation is something some have suggested and I think that’s something that seriously ought to be looked at by policy makers.”