A rank-and-file policeman at the George Washington Bridge has made more than $200,000 so far this year, along with dozens of other police officers for the agency that patrols New York City's airports, the tunnels under the Hudson River and the new World Trade Center site.
Payroll figures and names released for the first time Friday by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey show 66 police officers have made more than $200,000 so far in 2011, thanks to overtime that in many cases has doubled their salaries.
The bridge patrolman made $221,706. A sergeant on a special-operations team pulled in $265,059. That puts him above executives like Aviation Director Susan Baer, who oversees three of the world's busiest airports — JFK, LaGuardia and Newark — and two other airports. She's made $237,971 so far this year.
The Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents most of the police, says the high overtime numbers are the agency's own fault. President Paul Nunziato said the union has been asking the Port Authority for years to hire more officers.
"To me, it's absurd, and I've told them it's absurd," Nunziato said. "It's cheaper to hire another guy and pay his benefits than paying someone 2,000 hours or 2,500 hours at time-and-a-half."
The Port Authority did not immediately comment on the numbers, but earlier this week Executive Director Patrick Foye said he hoped their release would expose waste.
"What you can measure you can manage," said Foye, who receives a $289,667 yearly salary.
The Port Authority operates New York City's airports, its seaports, a train system, and several bridges and tunnels. It also owns the site of the new World Trade Center.
Its finances came under scrutiny in August when the board approved steep toll increases that outraged many commuters. The agency said it needed to boost its credit-worthiness partly to finish the World Trade Center. But the governors of New York and New Jersey ordered an outside audit.
The Port Authority receives no tax money and funds itself through tolls, rents, surcharges on airline tickets and other fees.
The special-ops sergeant who made $265,059 is the highest paid policeman so far this year. His pay includes $115,394 in overtime. Besides the aviation director's pay, it also outstrips Chief Financial Officer Michael Fabiano's earnings of $257,814.
Another patrol sergeant assigned to the Port Authority Trans Hudson Train system has made $256,000 this year, thanks in part to $133,565 in overtime.
The windfall also extends to rank-and-file police officers, most of whom earn base salaries between $68,000 and $90,000 a year.
The patrolman on the George Washington Bridge boosted his $90,000 salary to $221,000 this year through overtime, differential pay and other compensation, the figures show. Another patrolman has earned $218,950.
Overall, the Public Safety Department and its 1,696 employees accounted for $41.4 million of the $90.4 million the Port Authority has paid out in overtime this year. The Port Authority has 6,777 employees.
The figures released Friday also showed how overtime boosted the salaries of other employees. For example, 24 plumbers earn between $49,000 and $78,000 in base pay, but they collected an average $14,500 on top of that this year. Many toll collectors boosted their base wages of $58,916 to $85,000 or more this year with overtime.
Officers with the New York Police Department have long complained they are poorly paid compared to the Port Authority police and suburban police forces. The NYPD has about 35,000 officers.
"At our current rate of pay, New York City Police officers are still among the lowest paid big city police officers in the nation," said Patrick Lynch, head of the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the city's largest police union.