The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) claims to have no record of written communications with the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) about the traffic jam at the center of the ongoing investigation into Christie’s administration.
Some New Jersey Democrats have alleged lane closures on the George Washington Bridge last September were ordered by Christie’s allies to exact revenge against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse the governor’s 2013 re-election bid. Since the bridge is overseen by a bi-state agency, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and is staffed by executives appointed by both Cuomo and Christie, some observers have questioned what Cuomo knew and when he knew it.
Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, who was appointed by Cuomo, has said he ordered the lanes re-opened on Sept. 13 as soon as he became aware of the closures. Thus far, Cuomo has kept relatively quiet about the bridge accusations, which are currently being investigated by a committee in New Jersey’s Legislature.
I sent a request under New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to Cuomo’s office on Jan. 17 asking for any communications between the two governors and several top aides concerning “lane closures on the George Washington Bridge and traffic in Fort Lee.” The request covered the period from July 1, well before records subpoenaed by the committee in New Jersey show the closures were ordered, through Jan. 17. On Feb. 20, Cuomo’s FOIL counsel and records access officer Justin Levin sent back a response that said the governor’s office did “not possess records responsive to your request.”
In a separate FOIL request dated Jan. 17, I also asked for any records of communications between Cuomo, several of his aides, and four top Port Authority executives. That request also covered the period between July 1 and Jan. 17. Levin responded on Feb. 20 by providing a pair of emails dated Nov. 27.
In the first email Foye forwarded a letter from a New Jersey state Sen. Richard Codey (D) calling for the Port Authority’s inspector general to investigate the closures to several of Cuomo’s top aides. Codey’s letter stated it was “disconcerting” that Foye claimed to have been unaware the closures were taking place. Foye forwarded Codey’s letter without additional comment to New York’s Director of State Operations Howard Glaser, former Cuomo chief of staff Josh Vlasto, and the governor’s director of communications, Melissa DeRosa. In the second email Glaser forwarded Foye’s message to Larry Schwartz, the secretary to the governor.
These FOIL requests only covered written communications sent by the specific individuals named in the requests. This leaves open the possibility there were phone calls, in-person conversations, or communications between other staffers in the two governors’ offices and the Port Authority about the closures.
View the letters and records sent by Levin in response to the requests below. Some personal contact information has been redacted.
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