The US Supreme Court will take up a dispute between New York and New Jersey over the future of a port watchdog agency that was created 70 years ago to combat organized crime.
On Tuesday, the court granted both states’ joint motion to decide whether New Jersey can withdraw from the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, a watchdog agency established in 1953 through an interstate agreement approved by Congress. The court earlier this year temporarily halted New Jersey’s plans to exit the commission.
“Governor Murphy is pleased that the US Supreme Court has decided to hear the case regarding the Waterfront Commission in an expeditious manner, with briefs being filed this summer and fall,” Murphy spokesman Bailey Lawrence said in a statement. “He remains confident that when the case is fully considered and decided, New Jersey’s right to withdraw from the Commission will be vindicated, and New Jersey will be able to reclaim authority over its ports with a regulatory structure more suited for the 21st century.”
gov. Kathy Hochul’s office and the New York State Attorney General’s Office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
New Jersey lawmakers voted in 2018 to withdraw from the waterfront commission because they said the watchdog agency had over-regulated the ports and hampered economic growth. This March, New Jersey was about to dissolve the commission and hand enforcement duties to the State Police when New York sued, arguing the state couldn’t unilaterally walk away from the bi-state compact.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said allowing New Jersey to withdraw would cause “immediate and irreparable harm to New York” and lead to increased crime, higher prices on goods and racial inequities in who is hired at the ports.
New Jersey officials say about 90% of the region’s port activity happens in their state and they should be able to decide who can police their ports.
The Supreme Court set deadlines through November for both states to file their motions.