If a recent proposal passes through the New Haven Board of Aldermen, the Elm City will no longer be the nation’s largest seaport without a port authority.
Last Wednesday, New Haven’s City Plan Commission gave its stamp of approval to state legislation and local planning proposals for the creation of a New Haven Port Authority. New Haven’s port is the largest by tonnage on Long Island Sound.
Legislation approved by the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee in early April was submitted to the Board of Alderman on Sept. 3. It was then forwarded to the City Plan Commission for approval.
The City Plan Commission is an advisory body within the city government that reviews plans for physical development and economic policy.
Helen Rosenberg, City Plan project manager for the port authority proposal, said research on the plan has been ongoing for nearly eight years.
“The plan has been in the works for many years, but the actual efforts have been only during the past year,” she said.
Rosenberg said her department has been entrusted with considering what legal powers the Port Authority will have, how it will be set up, and who will be in charge of running it.
“The powers it will have are pretty broad,” she said. “Among others, it will be able to buy, sell and lease property, issue bonds and receive loans.”
Under the current system, port operators must each deal directly with city administrators in matters of zoning and building or coastal area permits. Port operators only interact with each other through the New Haven Harbor Petroleum Co-op, which owns cleanup equipment and schedules safety procedures for the port district.
Karyn Gilvarg, the executive director of New Haven’s City Plan Department, said a new economic reality is making change inevitable for a port that subsisted almost entirely without public investment in the last century.
“The port is confronted with increasingly complex issues, including the need to rebuild expensive infrastructure and a lack of available land for expansion,” she said.
Gilvarg said New Haven hopes a port authority will attract more shipping volume and revenue and help secure lower-interest loans and federal subsidies to cover the costs of projects such the $12.5 million renovation of the Waterfront Line railway to the port.
She added that external factors are making the need for a port authority more pressing.
“The Port of New York and New Jersey is looking to create a hub and spoke system they call the Port Inland Distribution Network,” she said.
Gilvarg said she believes a port authority will position New Haven as a prime partner for the distribution network, which in turn should help increase volume and revenues.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04, who sits on the City Plan Commission, voiced some concern during the Wednesday review about the effect the Port Authority will have on private operations and property owners. He later said he was satisfied by what he has seen at this stage of planning.
“I’ll ask more questions when it comes to the level of the Board of Aldermen, but from a planning perspective I don’t have more,” he said.
Following the City Plan Commission’s approval, the proposal will be returned to the board in time for their next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 30.