NEIGHBOR BATTLES: Supreme Court Deciding Dispute Between New Jersey and New York

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a dispute between New York and New Jersey regarding New Jersey’s desire to withdraw from a commission established decades ago to combat the influence of the mob at their joint port.

The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor was formed in 1953 to oversee licensing and inspections at the Port of New York and New Jersey and has its own police force. The two-member commission, with one commissioner from each state, was created at a time when the mob was extorting workers and shippers at the port.

New Jersey lawmakers argue that the commission has become “an impediment to economic growth” and that changes in the industry, including the rise of container shipping, have diminished the influence of organized crime at the port. In 2018, New Jersey’s former Republican Governor Chris Christie signed legislation to withdraw from the compact, but New York brought the issue to the Supreme Court.

The compact’s language does not explicitly address whether either state can withdraw, and New Jersey contends that “mere silence as to withdrawal gives one State no basis to hold another hostage to a compact forever.” It also argues that the commission was intended to be temporary. New York, on the other hand, maintains that the states “intended to prohibit unilateral termination, not allow it.”

The public can listen to live arguments in the case on the Supreme Court’s website.

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