Cuomo really doesn’t want to discuss the Port Authority

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Andrew Cuomo. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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Today, following a press conference about New York State's new "outdoor adventure" license plates, reporters grilled Governor Andrew Cuomo about the Port Authority, the bistate agency at the center of "bridgegate" that he jointly, and as quietly as possible, controls.

Cuomo has been consistently stand-offish when it comes to the authority, and to transit issues in general. The attitude seems to have become more pronounced since Christie's bridge scandal exploded into public view. 

A reporter asked him whether he bore any responsibility for the agency's dysfunction, referring to the closure of access lanes on the New Jersey side of the Port Authority-owned George Washington Bridge, which were ordered by Chris Christie's office and revealed by the authority's Cuomo-appointed executive director, Pat Foye.

“Which dysfunction?” Cuomo responded.

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The lane shut-downs, the reporter specified.

“The situation at the Port Authority has been discussed, discussed again, and discussed again,” said Cuomo, sounding frustrated. “I think everybody understands the situation at the Port and how it operates. It's a bistate agency and authority that's split, and there are a number of investigations on the matter that you have discussed. We'll let the investigations finish. ... At least we'll have some facts.”

There are in fact investigations into the bridge caper, but there are also several facts that are known: The order to close the access lanes came from a top Christie aide; the closures were executed by Christie's Port appointees; Foye reversed the closures in an angry email that was then leaked to the press; in a New York-led effort, the authority's board is considering reforms to make the once-respected infrastructure agency less dysfunctional.

Another thing that's known is that in December, Christie and Cuomo talked on the phone. The Wall Street Journal reported they talked about the George Washington Bridge. Today, Cuomo would only say they talked about airports.

A reporter asked Cuomo whether he was concerned about the lack of control he had over events that impacted people traveling to New York, and whether he was concerned that New York wasn't asserting proper control over the authority. 

“New York is not in control of the agency, right?" said Cuomo. "By law, it is a bistate agency, so it is a situation of shared control and shared authority.”

A reporter pointed out that that shared authority would imply that he ought to have had some knowledge of the bridge situation. 

“It would imply that we have shared control as opposed to exclusive control,” said Cuomo.

The governor was asked whether he'd had reason to change his decision to take Chris Christie's word that he knew nothing about the bridge scheme. 

"No," Cuomo said.

"There are numerous investigations that are under way," he went on. "I think we should wait for the investigations to finish so we have the facts, then we have opinions based on facts, which is always preferable.”

A reporter asked Cuomo if he had any discernible response when he learned of the closures, which he says he discovered only through media reports.

“I didn't personally get involved in it," he said. "Whoever is responsible for the Port Authority was dealing with it, but I didn't.”