PA Salaries Going Up, Ground Zero Going Nowhere

Construction at the World Trade Center site hasn't made much progress, but the paychecks of Port Authority employees sure are reaching for the sky.

More than 200 employees of the agency, which runs the bus terminal, three airports and six bridges and tunnels, got boosted to six-figure salaries in 2008, according to a published report.

While tolls have gone up and the Port Authority's hankering with developer Larry Silverstein has hampered construction of the Sept. 11 memorial, some executives got 20 percent pay increases, reports The New York Post

Last year, the bi-state agency shelled out $161 million to cover the salaries of 1,298 employees – about 18 percent of its payroll -- making $100,000 or more. In 2007, the PA spent $134 million to cover the salaries of 1,093 workers raking in the dough.

Much of the increase in expenditure can be attributed to a few honchos and new hires. Darrell Buchbinder, the PA's general counsel, earned the largest raise, $35,802, bringing his salary to an enviable $245,024, according to the Post. The agency's second-in-command, Susan Bass Levin, got a $31,460 bump to $283,452, and a few other executives – chief engineer Francis Lombardi and chief financial officer A. Paul Blanco – got tens of thousands of dollars in raises as well.

Why are the salaries of PA executives going up while the construction at Ground Zero appears to be going nowhere? A spokeswoman for the agency said the pay bumps resulted from an analysis conducted by a consultant last year, the Post reported.

"The Port Authority operates some of the most sophisticated transportation projects," spokeswoman Candace McAdams told the paper. "We benchmark our management positions against both public and private sectors to attract and retain talent."

The agency has been focused on cutting costs, too, McAdams said. The PA has eliminated more than 380 non-police jobs since 2004 and saved $40 million a year, she said.

Given $2 toll hikes at six bridges in 2008 and the continuing holdups at Ground Zero, some critics aren't satisfied with that explanation.

"It's outrageous to give these people raises like that," Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro told the Post. "They admit that they have problems they can't resolve at the World Trade Center. It's eight years since 9/11, and we don't have a memorial out there. It's outrageous. How do you reward yourself for incompetence?"  

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