Funding the Gateway Tunnel Project
Legislation affording the Gateway Development Corporation legal authority to accept and manage federal funding does little to advance the project makes no sense. Creation of yet another agency duplicates the work of Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, MTA and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey experienced staff who know how to manage both the project and receipt of federal funding. It will only result in creation of another bureaucracy duplicating existing transportation agencies and their staff. This legislation fails to deal with the fundamental question for lack of real financing.
Previous Governors of NJ and NY found billions in hard cash for their local share to obtain Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding for the following projects. These include NJ Transit’s Hudson Bergen Light Rail Minimum Operating Segment One ($992 million), Segment Two ($1.2 billion) and Secaucus Transfer ($450 million). The Metropolitan Transportation Authority did the same for Long Island Rail Road East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal ($10.8 billion) and Second Avenue Subway Phase One ($4.5 billion). None of these projects required a federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing or Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Improvement Act loans. The Gateway Tunnel Portal Bridge ($1.6 billion) and Hudson River Tunnel ($11 billion) portions along with Second Avenue Subway Phase 2 ($6 billion) are currently in the first phase of FTA’s New Starts program known as “Project Development.”
Previous Governors found billions in real local dollars to provide real skin in the game today, not over decades. Why can’t Governors Phil Murphy of NJ and Andrew Cuomo of NY do the same today? It should not be that difficult for Cuomo and Murphy with the assistance of Port Authority of NY and NJ to come up with several billion each toward their local share to begin both the $1.6 billion Portal Bridge and $11 billion Hudson River Tunnel early phases of the overall $29 billion Gateway Tunnel. Time to stop crying poverty and man up. Neither Governor put a up a plug nickel in their current budgets toward funding this project. Without real hard financial resources from Washington ($14.6 billion), NJ ($7.3 billion) and NY ($7.3 billion), how will the full $29 billion Gateway Tunnel be paid for? A project can’t be financed by borrowing and fare surcharges alone. Washington, Albany and Trenton all share equal blame for the lack of a real $29 billion Gateway Tunnel financing package.
(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Offic.e This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA, New Jersey Transit, NYCDOT and over 30 other transportation agencies in NY & NJ.).
Shame on Richard Dreyfuss
Actor Richard Dreyfuss decided to tell us “Jewish misbehavior and oppression of others is more concerning to him than rise in anti-Semitism.” He conveniently ignores Israel’s outstretched hand to live side by side in peace, and Israel’s fair, comprehensive offers for peace in: 1917 (Balfour), 1937 (Peel), 1948 (UN), 1993 (Oslo), 2000 (Camp David), 2005 (Sharon), 2001 (Taba), 2008 (Olmert). These so called Palestinian Arabs were offered more than 90% of Judea and Samaria. At each and every juncture, they declined and no counter offers were ever made by them. Gee, if I really wanted peace, I’d be at the negotiating table, sweating it out until I was successful.
“Oppression of others???” Dreyfuss cannot identify a true victim, from a true oppressor, if his life depended upon it. “The Palestinians won’t accept any land-for-peace deal. They want sovereignty for themselves without a reciprocal recognition of the sovereignty of the Jewish state. They want statehood without negotiation and an independent Palestine that can continue its war with Israel.” You can hear their Nazi speech, calling Jews devils, teaching their children to kill Jews, in their own words, not mine or yours, on Palestinian Media Watch.
Wait. there’s more: he added he is “more spiritual and less Jewish than I have been…because of Jewish misbehavior…” Less Jewish? When they come to round us up because of Jews like Dreyfuss spewing ignorant, slanderous falsehoods, he can tell this mob he is “less Jewish”. They will throw him into the back of the rail car while they laugh at him and tell the guards to give him less water because he is less Jewish. Richard, when these genocidal, jihadi Islamists who openly declare their goal of killing every Jew in sight, come for you, you can try and tell them you are feeling “less Jewish.” Perhaps then they will only stab you a few less times.
Why AOC Shouldn’t Invoke Concentration Camps
When Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently used the term “concentration camps” and the expression “Never Again” to refer to the detention centers on the U.S.-Mexico border, I found myself torn. The pain and urgency of America’s immigration and asylum crisis are immense. At the same time — and although my position is unpopular with some — I cannot ignore Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s continued politically-motivated marginalization and diminishment of the tragedies that define Jewish identity and concerns today. As President of the American Jewish Congress, one of America’s oldest and most visible organizations dedicated to defending the Jewish people and promoting their values, it is my duty to speak out on both matters.
All Americans have a duty to speak out against the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border, which is deplorable. Our treatment of these migrants who seek better lives in America, and especially the children, defiles our core values as a nation. It also goes against the Jewish traditions of compassion and empathy for others, the pursuit of social justice, and tikkun olam — healing the world and making it better. The American Jewish Congress condemns these human rights abuses in the strongest possible terms and call for their immediate end.
Because our values are at stake, the politics needed to resolve the crisis must transcend party and creed. Sadly, the politics on both sides of the aisle remain divisive and counterproductive. I was born in 1945 in a displaced persons camp in Germany, immediately after my parents survived the systematic murder of six million Jews by the Nazis. For me, the term “concentration camps” means something very specific and personal, and it pains me to hear it used lightly or improperly. This is the reason I will continue to vehemently call out Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — or anybody else, for that matter — for abusing the collective memories and intergenerational scars of the Jewish people for cheap political gains.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s theatrics are unacceptable. Her use of words and phrases which conjure painful emotional triggers for the Jewish people displays obliviousness to the feelings and history of Jews, and demeans her own cause by rendering these words elastic and adaptable for political purposes. Scholars and pundits now weighing in on the technical definition of a concentration camp are similarly misguided. “Never” and “Again,” likewise, are two words that can be found in dictionaries, and there they will appear devoid of any larger meaning at first glance; nonetheless, taken together, these words carry existential meaning and purpose for the Jewish people. These words and phrases are vessels of pain and identity bearing great significance to Jewish Americans, and our elected representatives should be cognizant of this.
The situation on the border is brutal and countermands America’s deepest-held values. But connecting it to the Holocaust in order to get attention and score political points is lazy and divisive; what we need is real effort and solidarity among people of goodwill to confront the problem.
President, American Jewish Congress