Philip Mark Plotch and Jen Nelles, "Mobilizing the Metropolis: How the Port Authority Built New York" (U Michigan Press, 2023)


The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is everywhere in the New York metropolitan area. Founded in 1921, its portfolio includes airports, marine terminals, bus stations, bridges, tunnels, and real estate. But its history is not widely known and its inner workings are little understood by people who traverse its domain when they fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport, ride the PATH trains from New York to New Jersey, or drive across the George Washington Bridge.

Mobilizing the Metropolis: How the Port Authority Built New York (U Michigan Press, 2023), by Philip Mark Plotch and Jen Nelles, aims to fill this gap in public knowledge with a history of the Port Authority. Spanning 100 years, Mobilizing the Metropolis closely charts the evolution of the Port Authority as it went from improving rail freight around New York Harbor to building bridges and managing real estate. At the same time, the book explores the evolution of the authority’s internal culture in the face of actions by elected officials in New York and New Jersey that have reduced the agency’s autonomy and affected its operations. Mobilizing the Metropolis also extracts from the history of the Port Authority useful lessons about how organizations charged with solving governmental problems can win support and engage opposition.

Robert W. Snyder is Manhattan Borough Historian professor emeritus of Journalism and American Studies at Rutgers University. He is completing an oral history of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City for Cornell University Press. He can be reached at

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Robert Snyder

Robert W. Snyder, Manhattan Borough Historian and professor emeritus of American Studies and Journalism at Rutgers University. Email:

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