Battle lines over a proposed new, $10 billion Port Authority bus terminal were drawn in ink Thursday as city, state and federal lawmakers charged the project has ignored them and the needs of local residents, and called for a halt to an international competition scheduled to produce a winning design in two months.
Speaking at the monthly board meeting of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and others said the plan to build a new terminal one block west of its current location would be disastrous for residents and business in the surrounding Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.
They invoked the specter of past projects on Manhattan's West Side that met political defeat, including a plan to build a football stadium for the New York Jets several years ago.
"There's a long history of people who thought they would beat the Hell's Kitchen community and didn't quite make it," state Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said.
The 66-year-old Port Authority Bus Terminal is the busiest in the country and serves more than 200,000 people daily, many from New Jersey. It is the source of frequent delays and has been roundly panned by commuters over the years for its crumbling infrastructure that includes ceiling leaks, faulty air conditioning and dirty rest rooms.
While the lawmakers agreed on the need for a new terminal, they criticized what they characterized as a hasty process by the Port Authority that virtually ignored local groups.
The city "has to be involved in the planning process," Brewer said. "There's a right way and this is not the way."
New York First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris wrote in a statement Thursday that the city "has significant concerns" about the project and urged the Port Authority to reconsider the design competition and "begin a comprehensive public engagement and planning process that considers all possible options for a new terminal and views the project in an appropriate regional context."
Nadler said the project likely would displace a church, a food pantry, rent-regulated apartments and small businesses via property acquisition through eminent domain, and said the Port Authority could be "setting up a 10-to-15-year legal battle" if it follows its current course.
Port Authority Chairman John Degnan responded that the agency has "discouraged" the design finalists from submitting plans that would include property acquisition. He defended the project, noting the process began three years ago and has included internal and external studies and several options that were winnowed to one preferred option presented to the design finalists.
"I'm confident that the concept that is ultimately approved by the board will minimize, if not eliminate, concerns about taking private property and having an adverse impact on the neighborhood," he said.
"Every project at some point runs into opposition which is always centered on delay for more consultation and planning," he continued. "And while the process itself contemplates that going forward, there's no reason to stop an interim step while those additional consultations and planning activities are going on."