LOWER MANHATTAN — New Yorkers would be better off if the Port Authority had gone through with its original plan to steeply increase tolls and fares on the Hudson River crossings, the agency's chief said Tuesday.
Port Authority executive director Chris Ward said the more modest hikes passed earlier this month — $1.50 more for EZ-pass drivers starting this September, as opposed to $4 more — have forced the authority to curtail its 10-year capital plan, delaying major infrastructure projects at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Airport, and limiting repairs to existing structures.
"Unfortunately, you cannot always do more with less," Ward said Tuesday afternoon, at a luncheon in lower Manhattan sponsored by the New York Building Congress.
"Sometimes, you must simply do more."
Ward warned that if New York and the rest of the country do not invest more aggressively in infrastructure, the United States "will continually play catch-up with the rest of the world."
Ward did not directly criticize Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who earlier this month called for the Port Authority to curb its "exorbitant spending" and was rumored to be searching for a replacement for Ward.
But Ward defended the Port Authority's work as essential to the city's financial health, especially since infrastructure projects during recessions create jobs, he said. Ward added that he was disheartened by the increasing criticism of government spending across the country, as exemplified by the Tea Party.
"We are truly seeing the consequences of the slow deterioration…of the social contract," Ward said.
Ward's comments came at the end of a presentation on progress at the World Trade Center site, which he hailed as an example of public-private investment in building for the future.
However, he added, "I do not have the same optimism for the city and country going forward."