Members of Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor that her city would be starved of Hurricane Sandy relief funds unless she signed off on a redevelopment project favored by the governor, MSNBC reported yesterday in an interview with the mayor.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said the pressure came from Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, who denied the claim. Zimmer cited e-mails and personal notes during an interview on MSNBC’s “Up with Steve Kornacki” program.
“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,” she told MSNBC in the interview.
Zimmer requested more than $125 million from Christie in Sandy aid, and has gotten only $142,000 toward the cost of a single back-up generator, plus $200,000 more in recovery grants, she told MSNBC. Zimmer hasn’t approved the project favored by Christie, the network said.
A call placed by Bloomberg News to Juan Melli, Zimmer’s spokesman, wasn’t returned.
Zimmer said on CNN’s “State of the Union” today that she stood by her statements and offered an explanation as to why she waited to come forward.
“I didn’t think anyone would believe me,” she said. “I wanted Hoboken to still have a chance of getting funding.”
A Christie spokesman said the governor was doing what he could for the city.
“Governor Christie and his entire administration have been helping Hoboken get the help they need after Sandy, with the city already having been approved for nearly $70 million in federal aid and is targeted to get even more when the Obama administration approves the next rounds of funding,” said Colin Reed, a spokesman for Christie, in an e-mailed statement.
Guadagno’s office didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail left by Bloomberg News seeking comment.
Constable, through a spokesperson, denied Zimmer’s claims, MSNBC said. New York City-based Rockefeller Group, developer of the project, said in a statement it had “no knowledge of any information pertaining to this allegation,” MSNBC reported.
MSNBC said the project dates back to 2008 and would have allowed the Rockefeller Group to redevelop a part of Hoboken’s industrial section.
Zimmer’s claim comes a little more than a week after the governor held a two-hour news conference to apologize for his administration’s role in creating a traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in September. Christie has said he had no prior knowledge of his office’s involvement in shutting down lanes at the George Washington Bridge in what his critics call political retribution.
His administration is facing multiple investigations in New Jersey over the incident.
John Wisniewski, the Democratic state assemblyman investigating the bridge closures, called Zimmer a “serious voice” whose comments merit investigation.
“The committee needs to look at the facts, hear her story,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” today. “We don’t know where it goes. We don’t know if there’s more to it.”
Wisniewski is on a “partisan witch hunt” and should recuse himself, Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor and a Christie supporter, said on “Meet the Press.”
“He’s no longer an impartial arbiter of the facts,” Giuliani said.
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