Port Authority waives fees on humanitarian goods for Ukraine
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will waive its airport and seaport fees for humanitarian aid shipments to Ukraine, officials with the bi-state agency announced Thursday.
Goods such as food, medicine, blankets and clothing will be able to pass free through the facilities of the Port Authority, which oversees the East Coast’s largest port and five airports in both states.
“I just think as an agency you sometimes have a moral and social responsibility,” Kevin O’Toole, chairman of the Port Authority’s board, said at its March 17 monthly meeting.
A council-approved resolution waives the fee and also says Port Authority facilities will be a “magnet” for collecting and dispatching relief, and that this agency will help solicit goods and reserve space for ‘storage.
The Port Authority also decided to offer its expertise to help rebuild Ukraine’s transportation infrastructure, similar to a measure the agency took to help Puerto Rico rebuild its ports and airports following the Hurricane Maria in 2017.
“The Port Authority generally does not become involved in such matters, it will remain the case,” read the resolution, read by an agency lawyer during the meeting. “But the situation in Ukraine is simply unprecedented in terms of the ferocity and unprovoked nature of the Russian invasion, and in terms of the near unanimity of the United States and world opinion on this subject.”
O’Toole noted the ties the agency shares with the war-torn nation, including the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has twice visited his 9/11 memorial site in Lower Manhattan, laying a wreath. at the Survivor’s Tree and planting flowers in the name of a deceased Ukrainian-born Port Authority policeman.
During a recent tour of the agency’s PATH rail facilities, a mechanic apparently told O’Toole and the agency’s executive director, Rick Cotton, that some of the wheel parts were also sourced domestically.
But what spurred O’Toole and his fellow commissioners into action, he said, were Zelenskyy’s calls before Congress on Wednesday for the United States “to do more” to help the country beleaguered by Russian forces in recent weeks.
“And it just struck me that we really should say something and do something – I just think we have to do it, we just have to say and do something,” he said.
“I think [the resolution] speaks for itself and it is powerful,” O’Toole said. “It’s not political, I think sometimes you have to be heard.”