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Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye. Photo by: City & State, New York

Port Authority head Patrick Foye stands tall in New Jersey bridge scandal

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Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye. Photo by: City & State, New York

In 2012, The New York Times published an interview with Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye.

Foye, who has held numerous statewide positions under New York governors Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo, was asked what attracted him to government service.

“I’m a first-generation American — both of my parents were from Ireland. This country has been very good to my family. And I like the action, the intellectual challenge of government and the ability to give back,” he said.

Well, it’s not likely Foye could ever have imagined having to write a memo quite like the one he wrote on September 13, 2013. That was just days after the now-infamous lane closures which crippled traffic on the George Washington Bridge, an event that threatens the future political ambitions of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

“I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a hospital or hospice-bound patient delayed,” a clearly exasperated Foye wrote.

This past week, much has been written about Christie and how much he knew about his vindictive underlings' order to close the lanes on the GWB to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor for failing to endorse Christie in his bid for reelection. Experts and pundits are weighing in on whether or not this will hurt Christie’s chances at a presidential nomination. 

Other revelations regarding punishments emanating from Christie’s governor’s mansion are sure to start trickling out, and, yes, even the word “impeachment” has been uttered.

But that was all in the past week. Let’s not forget, this lane-closure mess happened four months ago.  That’s why it is so interesting to read the memo written by Foye way back on September 13.

Foye was saying things four months ago that people are finally saying now.

“I made inquiries and received calls on this matter which is very troubling,” Foye’s September memo begins.

“Reversing over 25 years of [Port Authority George Washington Bridge] operations, the three lanes in Fort Lee eastbound to the GWB were reduced to one lane on Monday of this week without notifying Fort Lee, the commuting public we serve, [executive director Foye] or media. A decision of this magnitude should be made only after careful deliberation and upon sign off by [Foye].”

Then Foye gets really hot.

“I am appalled by the lack of process, failure to inform our customers and Fort Lee, and most of all by the dangers created to the public interest, so I am reversing this decision.”

Foye continues, “I will get to the bottom of this abusive decision which violates everything this agency stands for. I intend to learn how PA [Port Authority] process was wrongfully subverted and the public interest damaged to say nothing of the credibility of this agency.”

When Christie was busy denying the lane closures were a big deal, and was even cracking jokes, Foye was demanding answers.

Then again, Foye was appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo rather than Christie. The Port Authority controls bridges, tunnels and other operations shared by both New York and New Jersey. So, while it appears Christie’s appointees were gleeful about doing his dirty work, it’s clear Foye saw the stupidity as well as danger of such shenanigans.

So, just who is Patrick Foye?

Growing up, Foye’s Irish immigrant mother worked as a waitress while his father worked as a doorman. He attended Fordham University and then became a lawyer.

He made most of his political connections on Long Island, where he was active in Conservative Party circles and worked in real estate, served on school boards and even served as president of the Nassau County Taxpayer’s Committee.

In 2004, Foye was named president of United Way of Long Island. Later, during his oh-so-colorful term as governor, Spitzer selected Foye to co-chair the Empire State Development Corporation.

When he was tabbed Port Authority leader in 2011, The New York Times described Foye as a “veteran of economic development circles and a well-known figure in Long Island’s public life,” adding, “Mr. Foye is viewed in municipal circles as a well-liked and intelligent public servant.”

If only Christie were so intelligent. After all, even if he had nothing to do with the lane closures, as he claims, how come it took him so long to see what Foye saw clearly all the way back in September?

(Contact “Sidewalks” at tdeignan.blogspot.com)

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