Empire on the Hudson: Entrepreneurial Vision and Political Power at the Port of New York Authority

Empire on the Hudson: Entrepreneurial Vision and Political Power at the Port of New York Authority

Empire on the Hudson: Entrepreneurial Vision and Political Power at the Port of New York Authority

Empire on the Hudson: Entrepreneurial Vision and Political Power at the Port of New York Authority

Synopsis

Revered and reviled in almost equal amounts since its inception, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been responsible for creating and maintaining much of New York and New Jersey's transportation infrastructure -- the things that make the region work. Doig traces the evolution of the Port Authority from the battles leading to its creation in 1921 through its conflicts with the railroads and its expansion to build bridges and tunnels for motor vehicles. Chronicling the adroit maneuvers that led the Port Authority to take control of the region's airports and seaport operations, build the largest bus terminal in the nation, and construct the World Trade Center, Doig reveals the rise to power of one of the world's largest specialized regional governments. This definitive history of the Port Authority underscores the role of several key players -- Austin Tobin, the obscure lawyer who became Executive Director and a true "power broker" in the bi-state region, Julius Henry Cohen, general counsel of the Port Authority for its first twenty years, and Othmar H. Ammann, the Swiss engineer responsible for the George Washington Bridge, the Bayonne and Goethels bridges, the Outerbridge Crossing, and the Lincoln Tunnel. Today, with public works projects stalled by community opposition in almost every village and city, the story of how the Port Authority managed to create an empire on the Hudson offers lessons for citizens and politicians everywhere.

Excerpt

New York City owes its location, its growth, its prosperity, and even its very existence, to its port. It is a natural site for a transportation break, for an entrepot of incredible variety, and for a great city. Indeed, the southern tip of present-day Manhattan was already a centuries-old trading post in 1524, when Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian in the employ of France, became the first known European to sail into the magnificent bay. Located at the point where the Hudson and Passaic Rivers mingle with the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound, the harbor is the finest in the western hemisphere and is usually ice-free in all seasons. in 1609, Henry Hudson sailed into the Upper Bay and soon reported to his Dutch employers that the natives were friendly, that the river was broad, and that the climate was moderate. Thus encouraged, the Dutch established a fort there in 1624 and made it the center of their trading operations in North America. in 1664, the English took the city away from the Dutch and renamed it New York.

In the centuries ahead, the cornerstone of Gotham's growth was commerce, and the backbone of its economy long remained at the water's edge, from which the settlement expanded and waxed rich. Soon after the winning of American independence in 1783, New York began to surpass its major rivals. By 1789, it was the leading city in the coasting trade, and ten years later it had surpassed all its competitors in tonnage and in the value of both exports and imports. Its protected waterways were ideal for ocean-going vessels, and for smaller boats, whose number swelled after the Erie Canal opened in 1825. Between the Civil War and 1960, when Rotterdam overtook it, the Port of New York usually ranked as the world's busiest, and it typically handled more goods and passengers than Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore combined. Even experienced seamen were awed by the vast traffic of tramp steamers, sailing vessels, barges, ferries, and warships which jockeyed for position in its crowded waters. Meanwhile, behind the docks stretched acres of warehouses, storage tanks, coal dumps, sugar mills, breweries, and dry docks. in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries . . .

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