NY Inspector General: Keep Waterfront Commission

NY Inspector General: Keep Waterfront Commission

New York State Inspector General Joseph Fisch said the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor has been reformed by its current leadership and that a New Jersey lawmaker’s effort to abolish the agency is “ill-advised.”

“The Waterfront Commission of today is not the Waterfront Commission we investigated,” Fisch said in a telephone interview. “There’s new leadership and a good professional staff. They’re doing a good job. I think it is a bad idea to eliminate the commission.”

The commission was created in 1953 to combat racketeering in the New York-New Jersey port. The New York inspector last year issued a blistering 60-page report based on a review of commission activities in 2007-2008. The report cited “neglect and malfeasance ranging from lackluster oversight of shipping companies to conflicts of interest and an abrogation of legal responsibilities undermining the very purposes of the commission.”

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New Jersey State Sen. Ray Lesniak cited the report when he introduced legislation last month to abolish the agency and transfer its responsibilities to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Lesniak introduced his bill after the commission’s new leadership announced in June it would hold public hearings on no-show jobs, favoritism in hiring and organized crime influence on the docks. The hearings began this month and will continue into November.

Fisch said the agency’s New York commissioner, Ronald Goldstock, former head of the New York State Organized Crime Strike Force, and its executive director, Walter Arsenault, have turned the commission around. “Give these guys a chance,” Fisch said. “It’s a good professional staff.”

He said the Waterfront Commission should remain an independent agency. “You need an oversight agency for the Port of New York and New Jersey,” he said. “Just because the commission we investigated had messed up, and messed up very, very severely, does not mean you throw out the baby with the bathwater.”

-- Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com.