New Gateway Trustee Zaro: It’s time to look beyond the first move on the chessboard

Jerry Zaro knows the Gateway Tunnel Project is about so much more than just the ability to get commuters back and forth to New York City. He sees its impact on everyone and everything relating to the economy and the environment of the region.

Zaro, the recently appointed New Jersey representative of the Gateway Program Development Corp., said seeing the total impact is one way proponents can help push the project  forward.

“It’s time to look beyond the first move on the chessboard,” he told ROI-NJ. “This entails looking down the road a bit.

“If this tunnel were to be shut down, you put extras cars on roads that already are at a complete standstill. If you add in this extra traffic, can you imagine what happens to our environment as our cars sit and emit these emissions?

“Then look at the human tool — the extra stress it would cause not having any idea how long it was going to take to get to work.”

Then there’s the financial toll.

“Housing values would plummet,” he said.

Zaro, a member at Sills Cummis & Gross P.C. in Newark, is a veteran of public service, having served the past seven governors in some capacity, including being chairman of the New Jersey Highway Authority, commissioner of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and the chief of the Office of Economic Growth for the State of New Jersey, a cabinet-level position.

He said all of those positions will help in his role as one of three trustees at the GDC, joining Chair Steven Cohen (New York) and Vice Chair Tony Coscia (Amtrak).

“Those opportunities gave me the experience to understand how agencies work, how to get information quickly, an understanding of both the limitations and the power they have,” he said. “Those understandings have enabled me to very quickly do the deep dive with the staff at Gateway.

“But this is far different than any other task both in terms of scale, scope and complexity. This is a whole different deal. You’ve got multi-jurisdictions, you’ve got multiple pots of available money, you’ve got two states, you’ve got the bistate agency in the Port Authority and you’ve got implications down to Washington and up to Boston.

“And then, of course, there’s just the sheer size and scale. There is no other project that starts at $12 billion and goes up from there.”

Despite all this, Zaro is confident the project will find the funding.

The biggest reason: President Donald Trump.

“You have some dance going on with Washington now over the funding, but I think it’s just part of the negotiations,” he said.

“No one has to tell the president about real estate, especially New York City real estate. I don’t think anybody has to tell him if 13 percent of New York’s workforce couldn’t get there what would happen. It would cause a plummet of property values in New York.”

Zaro wouldn’t put a timeline on progress, saying he’s more concerned with just keeping the project top of mind.

“I’m hopeful some progress can be made sooner rather than later because this is something where momentum is going to be very important,” he said. “I’m a big believer that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion, stays in motion. This is really where we need to be.

“And I’m a big believer that reason will prevail — and hopefully prevail before a calamity occurs.”