Cuomo: Port Authority may need changes

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is shown at

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is shown at the House of Justice in Manhattan. (Jan. 18, 2014) (Credit: Steven Sunshine)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in his most expansive comments on the George Washington Bridge scandal, said Saturday that the Port Authority might need changes in how it operates.

Speaking out about a controversy he's largely avoided discussing publicly, the governor told reporters he's awaiting results of inquiries into the four-day closure of bridge access lanes that jammed traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., as an apparent act of political revenge.

"I think we should do one thing at a time: Find out exactly what happened here, when, who's to blame," said Cuomo, who shares control of the Port Authority with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.


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"The second question would then be: if there were procedures that need to be changed, if there were rules that were violated at the Port [Authority], then obviously we should look at that."

Christie has apologized but said he was "blindsided" by revelations that a top aide and PA appointees plotted to paralyze Fort Lee traffic.

Cuomo spoke outside the Harlem headquarters of Al Sharpton, where he attended a Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration and cultivated support for his re-election bid.

Cuomo avoided criticizing Christie and praised his own Port Authority appointee, executive director Patrick Foye, who angrily ordered the lanes reopened once he found out.

"It was done on the Jersey side of the bridge," Cuomo said. "And the Jersey officials handled it. And when Foye did find out, he was clearly shocked and surprised and not happy."

Cuomo spoke for about 20 minutes in Sharpton's storefront auditorium, touting his administration's record in reducing the prison population, keeping city juvenile delinquents in their communities instead of shipping them upstate and strengthening gun control.

Cuomo also got applause when he mentioned wanting to end New York's practice of trying teenage defendants as adults and a goal to make prekindergarten universally available statewide. He didn't mention Mayor Bill de Blasio -- who made universal pre-K his top campaign promise -- or de Blasio's plan to tax the rich to pay for it. De Blasio's office did not return an email seeking comment.

Cuomo, who is running for re-election this year, heaped praise on Sharpton along with good-natured ribbing.

"[He's] now a big, national TV star, personality. Not just a national TV star but a very handsome fashion model TV star, very debonair, well-dressed, really," Cuomo said in a singsong voice. " . . . I knew him when, though. I knew him back in the day when he was on the corner with a bullhorn and there was nobody around him and he was not quite as fashionable."

Sharpton's response drew laughs and hoots:

"Now, all that flattering talk that he gave about me, you do know it's re-election year for the governor. I'll just leave it there."

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