According to a report in the Bergen Record, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey gave Santiago Calatrava, the renowned Spanish architect whose lust for gold is as vigorous as that of his conquistador forebears, $500,000 for two bridge designs that will not be built and to which Calatrava will retain the copyrights. Sound shady? Anyone who has had the opportunity to use the Port Authority Bus Terminal will not be surprised to find out that it is.
In 2012, two Port Authority commissioners (say hello to David Steiner and Anthony Sartor, a couple of wise guys who have resigned since the check signing went down) pushed for inclusion of the world-class architect in two of the agency’s bridge projects. The first, the Goethals Bridge, which connects Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Staten Island, was already years in the making when Steiner brought Calatrava’s plans to the agency. “Beautiful but unusable” was the agency’s verdict. Steiner, however, remained undeterred. Months later, he pushed for Calatrava’s involvement on the Bayonne Bridge. The committee responded in the same way as before. But a series of hush-hush meetings and closed-door negotiations lead the Port Authority to write a check to Calatrava some months later, the official explanation being that they viewed his designs to compare them with their own.
Funnily enough, Calatrava was not happy with the windfall. He asked for almost $3 million and would not give consent for the Port Authority to use the rights for the plans otherwise. Stalemate? It would seem so. $500,000 is the maximum amount the agency can spend without submitting the allocation to a public vote by governor-appointed commissioners.