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The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, somewhat unsurprisingly, is a body dedicated to dealing with the waters surrounding New York City; basically, if you need to leave New York City over water for any reason, you'll be dealing with the Port Authority.

New York City and northeastern New Jersey (Hudson and Bergen Counties) share a common waterfront in the Upper New York Bay, the part of the Hudson River before it passes through the Narrows separating Kings and Richmond Counties into the Atlantic Ocean. This area has long been a sticking point between the two states, with many arguments and battles over its contested ownership; in fact, in the early 19th century, opposing police forces were found in the middle of the river, shooting at each other. A treaty was signed in 1834 identifying the dividing line down the Hudson River, but it was still to be many years before anything more was solidified.

Looking to the Port of London for inspiration, and helped along by a Constitutional clause allowing two states to work together thusly (1), the two states formed the Port of New York Authority on April 30, 1921, dedicated to dealing with transportation within the Port District, centered upon the Statue of Liberty (itself a bone of contention) and having a radius of about 25 miles. The Authority was slow to develop, issuing bonds in 1926, but in 1930, the Authority was given control over the Holland Tunnel (linking what is now SoHo with Jersey City). The Authority basically went nuts, parallelling its sister, Robert Moses' Triborough Bridge and Transit Authority. They completed the George Washington Bridge in 1931 and the first tube of the Lincoln Tunnel in 1937; built the three bridges connecting Staten Island and New Jersey; leased New York City Municipal Airport (now LaGuardia Airport), Newark International Airport, and the not yet completed Idlewild (now JFK) Airport; built the world's first containerports in New Jersey; and built the Port Authority Bus Terminal on New York's Eighth Avenue. The Hudson Tubes, formerly run by the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, were taken over by the Port Authority in 1962; they would become the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson). The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (so renamed in 1972) continued to develop areas in within their jurisdiction. The World Trade Center broke ground in 1966 and was completed in 1977. (2) Two industrial parks were built, one in the Bronx and one in Elizabeth; a waste-to-energy plant was built in 1990 in Essex County, NJ; and two new commercial developments were built: Newark's Tower Center and Staten Island's Teleport.

The Port Authority, as mentioned above, runs basically everything that enters or leaves the New York City area. Crossing any of the state-to-state bridges or tunnels will result in you paying a toll to the PANYNJ. Dock at any of the ports in the area and it'll probably be them who charge you at least some of your tariff. Your plane tickets out of any of the airports probably had a surcharge added to it to pay the airport's rent. However, they do quite a lot to keep the area vital and easy for transportation and commerce, providing rail links to the USA's freight network, and even operates within Foreign Trade Zones #1 and #49, allowing businesses within to be exempt from U.S. Customs duties. They are also building facilities to ease travel for commuters, creating rail links to two of the airports.

The Port Authority even has its own police force, with full powers in both states. They are often seen in airports (at least by the workers) and on the bridges (making it hard to escape a speeding ticket). 37 Port Authority police officers were among those killed in the World Trade center attacks.

The PA is completely self-supporting, earning its income through bridge tolls, facility/land rentals, and other fees. Both states appoint six Commissioners from each state; the governors retain veto power over their appointees. All board meetings are public. An Executive Director is appointed from the Board to lead the way; the Authority's website also lists a Chairman, a Commissioner Chairman, and a Commissioner Vice Chairman. Each board member serves for six years, without pay.

A (probably only partial) list of facilities the Port Authority runs:


(1) I can't find anything in the Constitution before 1921 that explicitly states this; maybe Amendment X, or possibly some interpretation of Article 4, Section 3; your guess is as good as mine.

(2) As of Thursday, 30 May 2002, the site is again under the jurisdiction of the Port Authority; New York City was given control of the area following the attacks of September 2001.


Sources:
http://www.panynj.gov/
http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/World_Trade_Center.html
http://www.hudsoncity.net/tubesenglish/index.html
http://1010wins.com/topstories/StoryFolder/story_1943219823_html
Homberger, Eric. The Historical Atlas of New York City. Henry Holt, New York: 1994

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