Port Authority Plans to Cut 626 Jobs as NYC Airports Remain Ghost Towns

Nov. 20, 2020

Port Authority officials on Thursday laid out plans to slash 626 jobs from the agency’s 8,000-employee payroll amid a COVID-19 budget crunch.

The pandemic has sunk the region’s airport traffic by 77% from last year, while ridership on the agency’s PATH train is down 78%. Crossings on the Port Authority’s bridges and tunnels are down by 14%, officials said.

The dismal figures have depleted Port Authority revenues by $1.4 billion so far this year and that figure is expected to grow to $2.7 billion by the end of 2021, said the agency’s executive director Rick Cotton.

The losses required the Port Authority to plan an operating budget for next year that cuts costs by 15% — or $1.3 billion — and guts plans for capital construction work. Cotton said the pain could be avoided if Congress comes through with $3 billion in relief for the agency.

The Port Authority in March received $450 million through the CARES Act — but money was only able to fund the region’s airports, and didn’t help stem losses in revenues at the agency’s bridges, tunnels, seaports or PATH train.

The planned job cuts would primarily be executed through “attrition and voluntary severance programs,” Cotton said.

Port Authority chairman Kevin O’Toole said “there have been no conversations of fee increases or toll increases” to fill the budget hole, and asserted that Congress is the agency’s only hope.

The final 2021 budget will be voted on by the Port Authority board next month.

The Port Authority has already paused $1 billion in construction this year, and will cut $1.2 billion on construction costs next year without federal aid, officials said.

Cotton said the Port Authority will continue construction on projects that are already underway, like the overhaul of LaGuardia Airport. Officials will decide next year which projects will be removed from the agency’s $37 billion 10-year capital plan that began in 2017.

One project that has not gotten final approval is also expected to move ahead.

Cotton said the Port Authority will forge ahead on plans to build a controversial $2 billion AirTrain from Willets Point in Queens to LaGuardia, which will require a transfer and charge riders a second fare like existing rail links at JFK and Newark Airports.

The AirTrain requires funding from the Federal Aviation Administration separate from the $3 billion in pandemic relief the Port Authority has already requested. Gov. Cuomo earlier this year failed in an attempt to convince President Trump to fund the project as part of a COVID-19 stimulus package.

Cotton said the AirTrain was essential for the overhaul of LaGuardia Airport — and said the rail link would be just as useful as rail links to major airports in other cities like London, Amsterdam and Paris, all of which have one-seat rides from the city center.

“There is no customer survey you can find with respect to a 21st century high quality airport that does not reference access to the airport,” said Cotton.


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