New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo each nominated their three picks to represent New Jersey and New York, respectively, in a bi-state agency that will oversee financing and construction of the multi-billion dollar Gateway Program – including the trans-Hudson River tunnel, Portal swing drawbridge and several nearby transit projects.
The Gateway Development Commission‘s predecessor – the Gateway Development Corp. – currently oversees the project in its preliminary planning phases, which range from from financing to environmental considerations and federal approval. All told, the $30 billion project includes a $9.5 billion price tag for building the new tunnel and $1.8 billion for renovating the old one, while the bridge will cost $1.5 billion.
Jerry Zaro, who currently heads the Gateway Development Corp. and chairs banking and real estate services at Newark-based law firm Sills Cummis & Gross, will be one of Murphy’s three picks, according to a statement released Monday from the governor’s office.
Environmental lawyer Janine Baurer, a partner at the Lawrence Township law firm Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein & Blader PC is another one of the governor’s picks with the last nominee being Balpreet Grewal Virk, director of community engagement for the Department of Population Health at Hackensack Meridian Health.
“The commissioners we have chosen today represent a group of talented individuals of the highest integrity and professionalism who will provide meaningful oversight and accountability over this project of national importance,” Murphy said in the Oct. 7 statement.
All three will need the approval of the state Senate, which will require votes to be scheduled by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District – an often-times political foe of the governor who has slowed down others of his nominations.
New York will also have three representatives on the commission’s board while Amtrak will pick a single member to represent the federal government.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo nominated New York Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez, his transportation advisor Jamey Barbas – who headed the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River – and Steven Cohen, who previously served as a senior staffer at the New York Attorney General’s Office and now serves as general counsel and executive vice president at the business conglomerate MacAndrews & Forbes Inc.
“We welcome and congratulate the new Gateway Commissioners who will form the founding board of the bi-state Gateway Development Commission. They are seasoned transportation, advocacy and government professionals who will be tremendously helpful in finally replacing a more than century-old system with 21st Century rail transportation linking New York and New Jersey,” Frank Sacr, interim executive director of the Gateway Development Corp. said in a statement. “The new, stronger organization will have the tools and resources necessary to oversee delivery of the Gateway Program projects.
“Building on the success of the Gateway Program Development Corp., we must move to full construction as soon as possible on these critical infrastructure improvements before it’s too late,” he added.
The Gateway Program projects have repeatedly been held up by the Trump administration over questionable funding mechanisms to pay for the project. New Jersey state officials and its Congressional delegation argue the move is political retaliation against the region, which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, calls home.
The commission’s applications for the tunnel scaled down the cost by $1.4 billion, while New Jersey Transit’s application for the bridge included even more money put on the table from the agency, but the federal government has still showed skepticism.