The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor (WCNYH) is a regulatory agency in Port of New York and New Jersey in the United States. The bi-state agency was founded in 1953 by a Congressional authorized compact between New York and New Jersey "for the purpose of eliminating various evils on the waterfront in the Port of New York Harbor." Under statutory mandate, the mission of the commission is to investigate, deter, combat and remedy criminal activity and influence in the port district and also ensures fair hiring and employment practices. New Jersey attempted to withdraw from the pact in 2018.
The commission was set up in August 1953 (a year before the movie On the Waterfront) to combat labor racketeering. The commission was initially created to combat unfair hiring practices on the waterfront in response to the growing number of crimes being committed there.
The Division of Licensing and Employment Information Centers is responsible for screening, registering, and licensing individuals who are interested in working at the dock. The commission is authorized to deny or revoke the registration or licenses of those who involve themselves in criminal activity.
The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor cooperates with various state, federal, and local law enforcement authorities in pursuing investigations into waterfront-related crimes. The Waterfront Commission participated in the investigation of criminal activities by the leaders and members of the Gambino crime family and union leaders. Charges of racketeering conspiracy, extortion, theft of union benefits, mail fraud, false statements, loansharking, embezzlement of union funds, money laundering, and illegal gambling, dating back over three decades, were brought forth by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in February 2008 against leaders of the Gambino crime family, their associates, and union officials. The Police Division utilizes numerous vehicles in its vehicle fleet, including marked police cars and trucks.
On August 11, 2009, the New York State Inspector General Joseph Fisch issued a report of his two-year investigation of the Waterfront Commission. The report detailed extensive illegal, corrupt and unethical behavior on the part of Waterfront Commission staff. Following release of the report, the large majority of the Commission's executive staff was fired, including the New Jersey Commissioner Michael J. Madonna (the New York Commissioner's seat was vacant at the time of the report's release, although the report faulted the actions of the former New York Commissioner, Michael C. Axelrod).
In October 2014, the New Jersey Senate passed measure S-2277 which would direct the governor of New Jersey to withdraw from the bi-state compact and transfer the commission's oversight responsibilities in New Jersey to the state police. In May 2015, Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed S-2277 (and the corresponding bill A-3506 passed by the New Jersey General Assembly), citing his concerns that the state lacked the authority to withdraw from the compact and arguing that the solution should be to modify the operations of the commission to minimize interference with waterfront operations.