Home>Governor>Justice Department backs New Jersey over New York in Waterfront Commission divorce

Gov. Phil Murphy at the groundbreaking for the New Portal North Bridge, August 1, 2022. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe).

Justice Department backs New Jersey over New York in Waterfront Commission divorce

Solicitor General says New Jersey is free to ‘withdraw unilaterally’

By David Wildstein, August 29 2022 7:08 pm

The Biden administration is siding with New Jersey against New York in the Gov. Phil Murphy’s  bid to withdraw from the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, giving the state a boost as the U.S. Supreme Court makes their decision.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed an amicus brief on Monday saying that a 1953 Compact “permits New Jersey to withdraw unilaterally.

“Unlike many other interstate compacts, the text of the Compact does not expressly address the question whether or when one of the compacting States may unilaterally withdraw from (and thereby terminate) the Compact,” the Justice Department’s brief explains.

The Solicitor General’s brief opines that the Compact “establishes a framework that enables either party effectively to veto the Commission’s ongoing operations.”

“That framework suggests that the parties also enjoy the more direct power to withdraw, they said in court filings.

The Justice Department disagrees with New York’s contention that New Jersey cannot terminate the Compact without the consent of the neighboring state.

“New York’s reading of the Compact is unpersuasive,” the filing states.

New Jersey has been pushing to dissolve the 69-year-old commission for the last few years.  The state’s two governors, Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo, had briefly considered appending the agency to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.   Christie signed a law in 2018 to withdraw.

“I am thrilled that the United States has filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing that New Jersey has the right to withdraw from the Waterfront Commission and that New York’s lawsuit should be rejected. This nearly 70-year-old commission is outdated and inefficient, and it has become an impediment to economic growth at a time when over 80 percent of the goods that flow through the Port move through the New Jersey side,” said Murphy.  “I look forward to this case being heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, and I am confident that New Jersey will finally be able to withdraw from this commission once and for all.”

The commission was established to fight organized crime and labor racketeering on at the ports of New Jersey and New York.  The agency has its own police department.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take on the case in June, staying a Court of Appeals decision that sided with New Jersey.

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