In an on-camera interview with MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki on Saturday, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer (D) alleged that the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) held Sandy relief funds “hostage” as leverage for a development project favoured by the governor.
Zimmer, who has been a Democratic ally of Christie, said Saturday that she was pressured by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s commissioner of community affairs. Christie’s office denied the allegations.
The development project in question was led by the Rockefeller Group, which is represented by Wolff & Samson — the law firm of Port Authority Chairman David Samson. Also representing the Rockefeller Group is Lori Griffa, Christie’s previous commissioner of community affairs, according to MSNBC.
Zimmer wrote about the incident in her personal diary last May.
“At the end of a big tour of Shop Rite and meeting, [Guadagno] pulls me aside with no one else around and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project,” Zimmer wrote, according to excerpts read by Kornacki.
“It is very important to the governor. The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward or we are not going to be able to help you. I know it’s not right — these things should not be connected — but they are, she says, and if you tell anyone, I will deny it.”
Zimmer told Kornacki that she requested about $US127 million in Sandy relief aid. She has only received less than $US350,000 in aid — less than 1% of what she requested. Hoboken was one of the hardest-hit areas by Sandy, with more than 80% of the city underwater at one point.
Hoboken received a grant from the Port Authority to study real-estate development area in 2010. The consultant, which the Port Authority chose, determined that only three of 19 blocks — blocks owned by the Rockefeller Group — were suitable for development.
Zimmer did not support those development plans, even in the face of pressure from Grifa. Kornacki relayed another meeting in May between Zimmer and Constable, which Zimmer detailed in her diary:
“We are mic’ed up with other panelists all around us and probably the sound team is listening. And he says, ‘I hear you are against the Rockefeller project.’ I reply, ‘I am not against the Rockefeller project; in fact I want more commercial development in Hoboken.’ ‘Oh really? Everyone in the State House believes you are against it — the buzz is that you are against it. If you move that forward, the money would start flowing to you,’ he tells me.”
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak called Zimmer’s claims “outlandishly false” in a statement to MSNBC.
He didn’t respond to an immediate request for further comment from Business Insider.
“Mayor Zimmer has been effusive in her public praise of the Governor’s Office and the assistance we’ve provided in terms of economic development and Sandy aid,” Drewniak said in the statement.”What or who is driving her only now to say such outlandishly false things is anyone’s guess.”
Zimmer’s bombshell allegations come at a time when Christie is already facing multiple investigations — for both Sandy relief money and for his administration’s role in lane closures on the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, N.J., last September.
On Friday, 18 Christie associates had their documents subpoenaed by the New Jersey State Assembly committee investigating “Bridgegate.” The associates included a wide range of top administration officials, top officials from Christie’s 2013 re-election campaign, and officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Zimmer has mostly shied away from press requests during the “Bridgegate” controversy, but she did suggest earlier this week on WNYC that there was a connection between the withholding of Sandy relief funds and her refusal to endorse Christie for re-election.
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