Recently it was reported that NJ Transit is going to move its headquarters from its owned building on one side of Newark Penn Station to leased space on the other side of the station. We were flummoxed to hear this—generally speaking, owing one’s “home” is not only considered the American Dream, but also gives one more control over costs. As a government agency, property tax is not an issue, and although ongoing operating costs are not completely controllable, often decisions about maintenance, updates, etc., can be scheduled at the best time for one’s budget and income. In fact, we note that just before the pandemic, the NJT board room got a major upgrade, with formal new dais, large screens for presentations, etc. We wondered during the pandemic lockdown why one employee could not go into the building to share presentations through the tech system, instead of all the virtually-attending board members and public staring at static portrait photos of the board throughout the multi-hour meetings.
In any case, the rationale given is the amount of renovation that would be needed to stay in the current location. Admittedly, at one of the recent in-person SCDRTAC meetings, as we waited for the elevator, the receptionist did mention that they were not operating at top efficiency and needed frequent repair, so we will not comment on what renovations might or might not be needed. What we will question is the specific choice of new location.
It has been widely reported that the choice of the Gateway building was perhaps not as straightforward as it might have been: the real estate expert recommended another Newark location, in the Panasonic building, and there was a third option in the neighborhood. Apparently, NJT CEO Kevin Corbett did not tour the Panasonic building, but even before he visited Gateway, the decision was made. It is not lost on us that the owner of the Gateway management company, Onyx Equities, is a major donor to Phil Murphy’s campaign and the Democratic party. We join the skeptics who would like to know a lot more about this decision and what impact it might have on the ongoing NJ Transit budget.