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A polite, collegial meeting . . . of the Port Authority?
Long an event that often served up fights between two states, the board meeting of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was held Thursday — and it was downright cordial.
With New Jersey appointee Kevin O’Toole heading the board as chairman and New York’s Rick Cotton as executive director, recent months seem to have ushered in a new era. Given the number of enormous projects at stake, the cooperation couldn’t come at a better time.
The “old” Port Authority was tarred by the Bridgegate scandal, and, later, clashes between John Degnan as chairman and Pat Foye as executive director. But today’s authority is a place where projects are moving along and O’Toole and Cotton display mutual admiration.
“To you, Rick . . . what you have done in five months here has restored the trust of all of us in both states,” O’Toole said at Thursday’s meeting. “You, my friend, are the most extraordinary public servant I have ever worked with in 30 years.”
Cotton in turn applauded O’Toole. “I would just like to return the compliment,” Cotton said. “We have formed an excellent partnership. I have been impressed by your leadership.”
O’Toole, a former state senator, was appointed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appointed Cotton, who had served as Cuomo’s special counsel for interagency initiatives.
“The shadows that you saw in the past have disappeared,” O’Toole, a Republican, said Thursday. “Better days are ahead.”
But hanging over the proceedings was a significant unknown. The future of the Port Authority depends in part on what Phil Murphy, a New Jersey Democrat, does after he becomes governor Jan. 16.
In his campaign, Murphy expressed support for the Gateway project to build a rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey, but said New Jersey must fight harder for itself at the authority. Will Murphy staff the authority with loyalists, as Christie did? Will the animosity between the states return, especially if Murphy and Cuomo don’t see eye to eye?
Randi F. Marshall
Cuomo on the cover
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appears on the cover of The Volunteer Firefighter magazine this month and the reason for such distinction is clear: He’s shown signing a bill that is wildly popular with the magazine’s readership.
The bill he signed Oct. 22 extends financial benefits for volunteer firefighters who are diagnosed with certain types of cancer.
The volunteers who fall ill must have had a clean bill of health when they signed up, must have at least five years of service, and must have been on call for “interior” firefighting — meaning entrance to burning buildings. The State Legislature passed the bill in June.
This was a top agenda item for the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York since 2013, and it puts volunteer cancer benefits on par with those of paid firefighters.
The magazine circulates to 40,000 New York homes. It’s also sent to legislators, schools and libraries, for a total of about 50,000 copies.
Check off that constituency, almost all of it outside of New York City, for 2018.
Elf on the Nassau shelf
SantaCon is coming to town
The storm is nearly upon us. Block your chimneys. Stay indoors.
Saturday is SantaCon 2017, one of the worst days of the NYC calendar for borough dwellers who dislike off-key singing and bad behavior.
The dreaded annual event invites thousands of North Pole wannabes to dress up as Santa Claus and make their merrily inane way from one NYC bar to another. Noise, chaos and midwinter drunkenness follow.
The MTA has tried to get ahead of elfish behavior by banning alcohol on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad trains and in stations for 24 hours starting noon on Saturday. (The LIRR’s usual weekend overnight ban is included.)
Similar temporary alcohol bans are enforced on the rails for St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve and the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Last year, the SantaCon alcohol ban resulted in eight summonses and no arrests, says MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan.
This year, the revelers might benefit from 2016 legislation passed by the City Council that substitutes civil penalties for harsher criminal penalties for open-container violations — and encourages cops to go along with that.
Lucky timing for the merry travelers.