New Jersey’s top law enforcement officer is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject New York’s “last-minute” attempt to save the 70-year-old agency regulating the region’s ports.
Next Monday, New Jersey officials said they were planning to hand oversight of the state's docks to the state police and officially withdraw from the bi-state Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.
In a legal brief filed late Monday, acting New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin said the state should have the sovereignty to decide who polices its ports. He said the interstate agency, which was established in 1953 to fight organized crime on the piers and terminals in New York and New Jersey, was “temporary” and had outlived its usefulness.
“To justify its continued existence, the commission has over-regulated the port, stifling commerce and exacerbating worker shortages,” the brief said. It also called New York’s lawsuit an “eleventh hour” attempt to stop plans that have been in the making for four years. New Jersey lawmakers voted to withdraw from the agency in 2018.
Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James asked the Supreme Court for a temporary injunction to stop New Jersey from withdrawing from the commission on March 28. James said letting New Jersey end the decades-long partnership would cause “immediate and irreparable harm to New York” and lead to increased crime, higher prices on goods arriving to the ports and racial inequities in who is hired at the ports.
In response, Platkin called those concerns a “self-created emergency” and said State Police have already dedicated more than 17,000 hours to prepare to regulate the docks. State officials say about 90% of the region’s port activity happens in the New Jersey.
"We stand committed to working with our partners to ensure a smooth transition and look forward to this new challenge,” State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan said in a statement.
The dockworkers' union also blasted New York’s attempts to stop New Jersey’s withdrawal last week. International Longshoremen’s Association President Harold J. Daggett called the move by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and James “shameful, disgraceful and politically motivated.”
“The gloves are coming off! We in the ILA will no longer remain silent. We are going to expose the disgraceful practices of the Waterfront Commission, who have never had to answer to anyone. They need to go,” Daggett said in a lengthy statement.
He challenged the members of the commission to “leave their cozy offices, and come to the docks on the waterfront, scale a four-story ladder in 10-degree temperature, with the wind blowing, and biting your face, and walk atop the roofs of icy containers, like my lashers do bravely round the clock, in treacherous conditions throughout the year to keep cargo moving in and out of this port.”