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Proposed Reorganization of the Port of New York (1921)

AFTER several years’ study of the future need. Of the Port of New York, the New York, New Jersey Port & Harbor Development Commission -created in 1917 by the legislatures of the two States-has transmitted a most comprehensive plan for the future development of the Port to the Governors of New York and of New Jersey. The magnitude of the transportation operations and the growing burden of congestion and terminal costs presents a situation requiring immediate correction.

Problems not created elsewhere are presented by the physical geography of the Port, the diversity of its interests and activities, and its very bigness. In order that the work may be carried on with continuity of policy and effort the Commission urges the creation of a unified Port District and a continuing port authority with broad powers and jurisdiction over the entire Port District by means of a compact or agreement between the State of New York and New Jersey.

The Commission believes that wherever feasible throughout the Port District, which is held to extend from Jamaica Bay to Newark and from Perth Amboy to Irvington on the Hudson, rail lines should be brought to the tidal waters so that rail and water service can be efficiently and economically coordinated. This is to be accomplished by a system of inner and outer beltline railroads on both the New Jersey and New York sides of the harbor, connecting all trunk lines and having numerous spurs to the various waterfronts.

Such lines, developed in such sequence as further study would determine, would provide for commercial and industrial development under the most favorable circumstances, and for the expansion of domestic and foreign trade throughout the Port.

Practically every part of the Port except Manhattan will have the advantage of standard freight rail service without breaking of bulk. In Manhattan the Commission finds that a standard railroad is not feasible. It therefore proposes an underground "automatic-electric system," an entirely new form of conveyor railroad which, serving the nine New Jersey trunk lines as well as the New York roads, will carry freight on short trains of special cars moving without locomotives or train operators, and running between terminals in Manhattan and joint yards away from the congestion.

Two stages of the automatic-electric development are proposed. The first, linking the New York Central and New Jersey railroads through a loop from a joint yard in New Jersey and a spur to the New York Central's 60th St. yard, will provide equal service from each of the ten railroads at twelve union terminals in lower Manhattan. The second, bringing the New Haven and Long Island Railroads into the system through a second joint yard near Wards and Randalls Islands, which the New York Central will also reach by additional tracks along the Harlem River, and providing additional lines and stations in upper Manhattan, will give all parts of Manhattan universal rail service.

The automatic-electric system, with its terminals all set well back from the waterfront, will release the present railroad pier stations for steamship service and the Marginal Way for supporting warehouses, will eliminate the present congestion of trucks on West Street and the Marginal Way, and will place well distributed union terminals much nearer the shippers and consignees, thereby greatly reducing the length of haul and street congestion in Manhattan for both inbound and outbound freight.

The foregoing new facilities are expected to reduce materially the car-float and railroad lighterage movement in the harbor, but much will still remain. . This the Commission would consolidate into joint operation from a few new railroad terminals at convenient points.

This improved railroad-terminal system the commission regards as the backbone of a rational port development, and it constitutes the physical plan which, together with a compact between the two States to make the plan effective, the Commission urges for formal adoption.

In furtherance of that rational development the Commission recommends, among other things:

  • Reorganization with wider piers and slips and more warehouse facilities of the Manhattan and other congested waterfronts.
  • Dredging of channels to every part of the Port's waterfront in keeping with the volume and character of the waterborne commerce seeking to use them, and removal or modification of bridges obstructing the channels.
  • Provision of suitable highway access to every part of the Port's waterfront.
  • Construction of additional terminals for the New York Barge Canal.
  • Wide installation of judiciously selected freight-handling machinery.
  • Creation of bunker facilities and fuel reserves for steamships.
  • Erection of grain elevators for joint use of New Jersey railroads and New York barge canal at a southern terminus of the outer belt line and at Piermont, and early completion of the barge canal elevator authorized at Gowanus Bay.
  • Zoning of steamship terminals by trade routes as far as practicable.
  • Establishment of free ports in the Port District.
  • Obtaining of immediate partial relief from present oppressive terminal conditions through
    • Consolidation of marine equipment and service, and
    • Inauguration of voluntary store-door delivery by an organized motor truck medium.

The Commission does not look upon an abundance of machinery as a cure-all. Tractors and trailers to move the goods on the pier are held to be as important as cranes to transfer them over the ship's side, but neither are of much
value jf warehouse space is not at hand to relieve the wharf shed of storage duty.

While it will take several years to build and put into operation the automatic-electric and belt-line systems, the Commission proposes two steps for immediate partial relief. One is the consolidation of railroad marine equipment into a single fleet jointly operated; the other is the inauguration of "voluntary store-door delivery."

“Proposed Reorganization of the Port of New York.” In “Nauticus” A Journal of Shipping, Insurance, Investments and Engineering, Volume 11, No. 141, New York, January 29, 1921, Page 26.

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