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Full plate at the Port Authority

Patrick Foye, new chief executive of the Port

Patrick Foye, new chief executive of the Port Authority Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

As distinguished as his accomplishments are, Patrick Foye, chosen by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week to run the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has never undertaken a challenge like this. Few people have.

Foye, currently the New York deputy secretary of economic development, began his career as a corporate lawyer in Manhattan and later led the downstate efforts of the Empire State Development Corp. under Gov. Eliot Spitzer. He has been vice chair of the Long Island Power Authority, is finishing up as a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, and served for a brief time as a deputy to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.

It's an impressive resume.

But the Port Authority brings with it an entirely different level of responsibility. It's massive in both size and scope, ranging through two states and combining five airports, two tunnels, four bridges, the PATH transit system, 10 real estate developments, a large maritime shipping operation and a police force.

Beyond that, the agency has a 10-year capital spending plan that totals about $33 billion, and a less-than-gentle path toward funding it. About half of that money will go to construction and security costs for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, where the planned office space is not expected to turn a profit. Billions more are slated to be spent renovating the George Washington Bridge, reconfiguring the Lincoln Tunnel entrance ramps on the New Jersey side and constructing a bus garage in Manhattan. The primary method of funding it all will be tolls. They're going to have to go up, and as we saw with the recent increases for the Hudson River crossings, commuters don't take such hikes lightly.

The Port Authority Foye oversees will be broader than the one his predecessor, Chris Ward, is leaving, because Cuomo also announced the agency will take over the Moynihan train station project, near Penn Station, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

Putting these under the auspices of the Port Authority makes sense. The conversion of the Farley Post Office into Moynihan Station to provide new access to the trains underneath is essentially a construction challenge, and building is what the authority does best. The LMDC has been "winding down" operations since 2007 without actually ceasing to exist, and bringing it into the Port Authority, along with Cuomo's appointment of former LMDC head and Windows on the World owner David Emil to a leadership role with the Port Authority, should finally sunset the LMDC.

Foye, known both for his superb intellect and his breadth of interest, will have to bring tremendous focus to his new role to deal with the financial and operational challenges the Port Authority faces -- and he'll need plenty of help with the nuts and bolts of the agency. He may very well be the right man to design the strategy, but the biggest key to his success will be building the management staff that can implement it. hN