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Quijano Working to Broker Resolution with NY Officials to Save NJ’s Port Economy, End Hiring Crisis

Assemblywoman Hopes to Revive Stalled NY Legislation to end Waterfront Commission’s Stranglehold on NJ’s Port

Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee Chair Annette Quijano (D-Union) on Thursday announced that she is reaching out to New York state officials to help broker a resolution that will end the Waterfront Commission’s stranglehold on New Jersey’s port economy and bring relief to neighborhoods in her Union County district that are suffering as a consequence.

Quijano is hoping to arrange a meeting with New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Chairman Jim Brennan in an attempt to revive legislation that stalled in New York in 2007, which would free port employers and unions to hire more employees without being subject to approval by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. New Jersey enacted the legislation (A-3123) in 2007, but because the Waterfront Commission is a bi-state agency, it needs to be passed by New York as well to become effective.

Despite clamoring from port employers and labor unions to hire roughly 600 more workers, the Waterfront Commission has delayed the hiring approval, creating a shortage in workers to help unload cargo at the ports which has consequently slowed down commerce and created a backlog of idling trucks that are choking out neighborhoods surrounding areas like Port Elizabeth.

“The Waterfront Commission’s stranglehold on our ports is impeding commerce, stifling job creation, impacting security and wreaking havoc on the neighboring communities which are forced to deal with the backlog of idling trucks,” said Quijano (D-Union). “At a time when we’re still struggling to revive our economy, we can’t afford to sit back while one of the nation’s busiest ports is held hostage by this arcane bureaucracy.”

Quijano noted that when the Waterfront Commission was formed in 1953, the New York side of the Hudson River dominated in terms of the volume of cargo, number of terminals and number of longshore workers employed. Today, more than 82 percent of the cargo and work hours are located on the Jersey side of the river and 80 percent of the workforce resides in New Jersey, many of them right in Quijano’s 20th legislative district.

“We need to free up port employers to control their own hiring practices based on demand. The current shortage is already creating a crisis. With hundreds of port workers expected to retire this spring and the Bayonne Bridge expansion expected to dramatically increase cargo volume down the road, this crisis will only get worse if we don’t act now. I hope our New York counterparts will recognize the severity of the situation and work with us to expedite the stalled legislation on their side,” added Quijano.