A New Jersey legislator said he will introduce a bill to abolish the troubled Waterfront Commission of New York and New Jersey, which was originally established in 1953 to fight corruption on the waterfront.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat, said he will introduce a bill Thursday to dissolve the watchdog agency and transfer its powers to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The commission, which was established in response to the same corrupt conditions that inspired the Marlon Brando film "On the Waterfront," was reorganized two years ago following an investigation by the Inspector General of New York State, who accused it of being involved in the kind of activity it was established to prevent.
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"They just no longer have a reason to exist," Lesniak told the Star-Ledger. "The companies are not the same companies; the industry isn’t the same industry as when Marlon Brando was a young man."
Of Lesniak’s proposal, Walter Arsenault, the commission’s executive director, told the Star-Ledger, "We think it’s a mistake.”
Lesniak’s proposal came a day after federal prosecutors charged eight longshoremen with smuggling millions of dollars worth of cocaine through six berths in the Port of New York and New Jersey.
The commission, which has a budget of $11.2 million and a staff of about 80 lawyers, investigators and others, is charged with combating organized crime on the waterfront. Legislation to dissolve it would need approval from lawmakers in New Jersey and New York.
Lesniak’s proposal comes two weeks after he chaired a hearing of the Senate Economic Growth Committee, during which waterfront business and labor leaders testified against a new commission initiative.
Officials from the New York Shipping Association and the International Longshoremen’s Association said during the hearing that the Port of New York and New Jersey would be unfairly burdened by the initiative, under which the commission would appoint independent monitors for companies that failed to demonstrate they were free of criminal influence.
Lesniak said Wednesday his bill was in direct response to those concerns.
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