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Judge nixes New Jersey’s bid to dissolve waterfront watchdog

May 30, 2019

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected New Jersey’s attempt to withdraw from a two-state commission that oversees the ports of New York and New Jersey.

The commission was formed by a compact between the states in the 1950s to investigate mob infiltration of unions, of the kind depicted in the 1954 Marlon Brando movie “On The Waterfront.”

Former Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in 2018 that would have dissolved the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, arguing that organized crime had largely been driven out of the ports and that New Jersey’s state police could adequately investigate criminal activity there.

U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton issued a preliminary injunction last June blocking implementation of the law. In that ruling, she noted that in the previous four years numerous longshoremen’s union officials had pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy and the commission also had been instrumental in an investigation that yielded the indictments of more than a dozen organized crime members for crimes including murder and racketeering.

In Wednesday’s ruling, Wigenton noted that while the original compact doesn’t directly address how a state could withdraw, it says that legislatures of both states have to agree on any amendments or changes. New York’s Legislature has not passed similar legislation to New Jersey’s.

Wigenton also wrote that it was “particularly troubling that under the Act, New Jersey seeks to distribute and assume jointly held assets and properties” of the commission.

A spokesman for the New Jersey attorney general’s office, which argued for the state, said the decision is under review.

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