Why did this organization own the World Trade Center?
A Port Authority, in general, is a “transportation department” at a lower level of government, like a city.
In Canada and the United States, a port authority (less commonly a port district) is a governmental or quasi-governmental public authority for a special-purpose district usually formed by a legislative body (or bodies) to operate ports and other transportation infrastructure.
The most visible example is the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), which you see everywhere in New York City. It manages the airports, the subways, the bus system, the ferry system, the ports, bridges, tunnels – theoretically, anything to do with transportation. The PANYNJ is run by a Board of Commissioners which are appointed by the governors of the two states.
Here’s a map of all the facilities managed by PANYNJ (scroll just a bit).
Many people outside NYC had never heard of the Port Authority prior to September 11. This is because of the odd circumstance of the Port Authority owning the World Trade Center. For no particular reason, the Port Authority invested in the building of the WTC complex in the 1960s, and became it’s largest investor/owner and facility manager of the entire complex.
Subsequent to that, the Port Authority invested in more real estate in and around New York and New Jersey. According to a page about real estate on its website:
The Port Authority manages an extensive real estate portfolio containing more than 12,000 acres of land and 45 million square feet of office, industrial, retail and technical space to support its trade, transportation and economic development mission.
The ending there is key: “economic development mission.” So the Port Authority intends to go beyond simple transportation management and into more general municipal development. However, I looked all over their website and couldn’t find a general mission statement anywhere.
I did find one on the New York State website. It has a lot of stuff about transportation, but includes this at the end:
…while strengthening the economic competitiveness of the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region.
And that, I guess, justifies its expansion into real estate.
Why I Looked It Up
I was just in NYC, and, of course, you see references to PANYNJ everywhere. Coincidentally, at the same time, I was watching a documentary about September 11, and the Port Authority is featured prominently in any coverage of that event.
I got to wondering about its general purpose, but, more specifically, why it owned an office building.