| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Jan 19 The New Jersey mayor who added
to Governor Chris Christie's woes with fresh claims that his
office punishes uncooperative local officials stuck to her story
on Sunday, overshadowing the governor's fundraising trip in
Widely seen as a Republican contender for the White House in
2016, Christie avoided mention of his troubles at home while he
raises funds on a closely watched trip to Florida this weekend.
His office dismissed as false claims by Hoboken Mayor Dawn
Zimmer that he sent his deputy to tell her she risked not
getting requested funds for Superstorm Sandy relief unless she
backed a redevelopment project in her city.
But Zimmer stuck to her story on Sunday that two state
officials, including Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, told her
Christie would withhold funding if Zimmer did not support a bid
by the New York-based Rockefeller Group to build on several
blocks in the city.
"She came and made a direct threat to me," Zimmer told CNN
television, describing a conversation she had with Guadagno in a
parking lot shortly before an event in Hoboken in May. "I'm
offering to testify under oath."
Zimmer says she has only received a fraction of the $127
million in relief funds she requested for Hoboken, a city just
across the Hudson River from Manhattan that was badly flooded by
Sandy in late 2012.
"The lieutenant governor said, essentially: 'You've got to
move forward with the Rockefeller project,'" Zimmer said on
Sunday. "She said this is a direct message from the governor: 'I
was with him on Friday night.'"
Christie is in Florida this weekend to raise money for
Republican Governor Rick Scott, on a trip viewed as a test of
donor confidence in a potential presidential bid in 2016.
It is his first political trip since his office was engulfed
by scandal this month after it emerged that some of his closest
aides orchestrated chaotic traffic jams in the city of Fort Lee
by closing lanes on the busy George Washington Bridge linking
New Jersey and New York City.
So far, Christie has largely avoided speaking with news
reporters in Florida. Reporters were kept on the highway outside
and out of view of the Country Club of Orlando while Christie
joined Scott at a benefit lunch there on Saturday. Attendees
told reporters Christie did not speak about the allegations he
is facing in New Jersey.
The bridge closures appeared to be retribution against Fort
Lee's Democratic mayor, who declined to endorse Christie for
re-election. Christie said he did not know of his aides' plans,
and fired two of the aides after their role in the closures
Federal prosecutors and both chambers of the state
legislature are now investigating what happened. Nearly two
dozen New Jersey officials, including much of Christie's inner
circle, were served with subpoenas on Friday over the lane
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat leading one of the
investigations, said on Sunday that Zimmer was a
"well-respected" mayor and that her claims need to be examined.
"I think we have to give the allegations serious thought
because it is a pattern that we've heard time and time again
throughout New Jersey," he said in an interview with NBC
television. "I think the committee needs to look at the facts,
hear her story, look at the emails and consider where we go
Federal officials are also reviewing Christie's use of about
$2 million in storm Sandy relief funds for a tourism campaign
that features him and his family. New Jersey Democratic Rep.
Frank Pallone requested the probe, saying he was concerned about
the bidding process for the marketing campaign.
Zimmer's accusations were the third blow to Christie in two
A Christie spokesman disputed the mayor's account.
"Mayor Zimmer's categorization about her conversation in
Hoboken is categorically false," Colin Reed, the spokesman, said
in an email. He declined to answer further questions about what
Guadagno and Zimmer actually discussed, and said the lieutenant
governor was not available for an interview.
Reed said Zimmer and other Democratic mayors had a
"political ax to grind" and only wanted a chance to be on
The mayor and the governor's office have wildly diverging
accounts about how much funding has been given to Hoboken. Reed
said Hoboken has received about $70 million, including about $50
million from various Federal Emergency Management Agency
Zimmer said that number was misleading, and was mostly made
up of payouts on residents' and businesses' insurance policies.
"We got just a little bit more than $300,000," Zimmer said.
"They're playing games with the numbers, and it's a deflection."
(Additional reporting by Barbara Liston in Orlando; Editing by
Dina Kyriakidou and Jonathan Oatis)