Christie administration held Sandy relief 'hostage' over project -mayor

Sat Jan 18, 2014 4:55pm EST

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during his annual State of the State address in Trenton, New Jersey January 14, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during his annual State of the State address in Trenton, New Jersey January 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's administration threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy relief funds from a flooded town unless a redevelopment plan Christie favored was quickly approved, the mayor of Hoboken said on Saturday.

The claim by Mayor Dawn Zimmer comes as Christie, a Republican seen as a likely presidential candidate in 2016, faces investigations into a traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge that was apparently politically motivated.

Christie has denied any involvement in the so-called "Bridgegate" scandal, and a spokesman dismissed Zimmer's claims, calling them "partisan politics."

Zimmer, a Democrat, told MSNBC television Hoboken received only a small part of the $127 million requested after Sandy, which flooded the town on the Hudson River in October 2012.

Zimmer said Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie's community affairs commissioner, delivered messages in May 2013 on behalf of Christie, whom she had long supported.

They said that she needed to move ahead with plans for a redevelopment project backed by the city's former mayor. Zimmer had asked for a professional study of the plan.

In a diary entry provided to MSNBC, Zimmer said Constable told her: "If you move that forward, the money would start flowing to you."

Zimmer said Guadagno pulled her aside in a Hoboken parking lot and told her: "I know it's not right. I know these things should not be connected but they are."

"It's not fair for the governor to hold Sandy funds hostage for the city of Hoboken because he wants me to give back to one private developer," Zimmer told MSNBC's "UP w/ Steve Kornacki."

ROCKEFELLER GROUP

The redevelopment project would have awarded the Rockefeller Group, a New York developer, the right to redevelop a stretch of Hoboken, which is across the river from Manhattan.

The project would have been eligible for tax incentives and would have given the Rockefeller Group a freer hand to build, while asking for millions of dollars in subsidies, MSNBC said.

Asked why she had delayed in coming forward with her allegations, Zimmer, who was elected in 2009, said she probably should have done it when the officials spoke with her.

"I have to act in the best interests of Hoboken. And we are still at risk of not" getting Sandy funding, she said.

Hoboken had sought $127 million for Sandy damage, but received just $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator, plus $200,000 in recovery grants, MSNBC said.

Colin Reed, a Christie spokesman, said in an email that Hoboken had been approved for nearly $70 million in federal aid. It will get more when the Obama administration approves more funding, he said.

"It's very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political axe to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television," Reed wrote.

Christie is in Florida this weekend for fundraisers for Republican Governor Rick Scott. It is Christie's first political trip since the bridge scandal and is viewed as a test of donor confidence in his potential presidential bid in 2016.

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat, said in a statement that Zimmer's allegations would be pursued for veracity and any connection to practices behind the bridge lane closings.

A spokesman for Rockefeller Group said the company was working to tell real estate and community leaders about the plans and to seek feedback from prospective tenants to move the planning process forward.

"We have no knowledge of any information pertaining to these allegations. Our Hoboken project is in the preliminary stages of planning and we have not filed any development applications for review or approval," he said.

Twenty New Jersey officials, including Christie spokesman Reed, were served with subpoenas on Friday as state lawmakers began to investigate the massive traffic jam in September.

Emails between Christie aides and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the bridge, appeared to show the lane closures were orchestrated to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for not endorsing Christie in his re-election bid last year.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Edith Honan; Editing by Krista Hughes and Gunna Dickson)

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Comments (16)
This is just another entry into the annals of disparagement for the faux conservative candidate the mainstream media created. Christie was never going to be the republicans choice for president. He’s a fabrication of the democrats and now they’re tearing him down; c’est la vie.

Jan 18, 2014 2:08pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Bighammerman wrote:
Mayors face this kind of thing all the time from all administrations since the Governor addresses a bigger picture than Mayors do. This is only becoming an issue because it is what the Democrats do. Democrats spend their time destroying anyone who they see as a threat and little time governing. Bigger than this, look at what is happening around the globe. Obama has created so uncertainty across the world that it is turning much more violent than it has ever been before. It will soon be our shore again like it was after Clinton left office.

Jan 18, 2014 2:08pm EST  --  Report as abuse
TeaPublican wrote:
I remember that guy Christie righteously demanding that Congress stop playing heartless politics with people’s lives and commit to helping the victims of the storm: “And I have to tell you, this used to be something that was not political. You know, disaster relief was something that you didn’t play games with. But now, in this current atmosphere, everything is the subject of one-upmanship, everything is a possibility — a potential piece of bait for the political game. And it’s just — it is why the American people hate Congress. It’s why they hate them. And Governor Cuomo and I are as frustrated as two people can be because, unlike people in Congress, we have actual responsibilities. And we have a responsibility to make things happen.” Ahhhhhhh Governor Christie, We Conservative Republicans want a real Conservative President….not a “Sponge Bob Square Pants” President that doesn’t even know how to hold people hostage for favors! We Republicans WILL take back our America in 2016 and 2016….and we WILL do it without that Sponge Bob Square Pants guy Christie! “P n P” in 2016….yes it IS going to happen!

Jan 18, 2014 2:15pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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