New York Approves New Port Commission to Fight Organized Crime

Red Hook New York piers
Red Hook piers which will be under the jurisdiction of the new commission while New Jersey will oversee its side of the port separately (file photo)

Published Apr 22, 2024 5:32 PM by The Maritime Executive


The newly passed New York State budget authorizes and funds a new Waterfront Commission to regulate and oversee the containerized cargo operations in the Port of New York. It will take up from the now disbanded joint effort between New York and New Jersey and be a page out of the famous 1950s movie “On the Waterfront” which focused on corruption and employment in the port.

The state’s $237 billion budget deal reached last week and sent to Governor Kathy Hochul for adoption includes a $5 million appropriation to create and fund the New York Waterfront Commission. The commission will be headed by an appointee of the governor and have a staff of 32 people, the majority of which will operate in a law enforcement capacity.

Calling for the legislation, the sponsors hearkened back to the 1950s and before when they said the port lacked systematic hiring methods and employment was corrupt and discriminatory. They also cited the long heritage of criminal practices and coercion of employees and employers by organized crime.

The authorizing language for the commission says its goal is “to prevent such conditions and to prevent circumstances that result in waterfront laborers suffering from the irregularity of employment, fear, and insecurity, inadequate earnings, an unduly high accident rate, subjection to borrowing at usurious rates of interest, exploitation, and extortion as the price of securing employment.”

Among the roles that have been outlined for the new commission is to regulate the occupations of longshore workers, stevedores, pier superintendents, hiring agents, and security officers. The goal is to ensure fair employment practices. The commission will license both companies and individuals to work on the piers located in New York State and it will maintain registers of eligible applicants and information for their hiring.

The commission will also collaborate with local and federal law enforcement agencies to conduct investigations into organized crime. Law enforcement personnel, attorneys, and intelligence analysts will perform comprehensive background checks of individuals and companies to ensure they meet the applicable standards and qualifications to work and operate in the port.

The formation of the new commission is New York’s answer to the multi-year effort by New Jersey which ultimately won approval from the U.S. Supreme Court to withdraw from the 70-year-old joint effort. New Jersey transferred the responsibilities for oversight of port operations to its State Police after arguing that the old commission was too bureaucratic and did not reflect the current operations of the port. New Jersey asserted that cargo volume over the years had shifted from the New York side of the port to its jurisdiction and that it needed a more efficient means of regulating port activity.

To get the New York legislation passed the governor and its supporters agreed with the International Longshoremen's Association to consult with employers and the unions on new regulations. The first task of the new commission will be to undertake a review and propose revisions to the existing regulations.