by Frances Martel 18 Jan 2014
Democratic Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer told MSNBC on Saturday that Chris Christie's second-in-command warned her in a parking lot that Hurricane Sandy funding would not go to the city if Zimmer did not approve a city redevelopment project.
Zimmer appeared on MSNBC with Steve Kornacki and alleged that Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and Christie's community affairs commissioner Richard Constable told her independently that a redevelopment project in Northern Hoboken needed to go through in order for Zimmer's city to received Sandy funding. Zimmer, according to the NY Daily News, requested $127 million in hurricane relief for the city of Hoboken, one of the state's northernmost cities to be hit hard by the natural disaster. In the aftermath of Sandy, 80% of Hoboken was underwater.
Zimmer told MSNBC that she was told twice that hurricane relief funding would flow to the city more quickly if she approved the project, which she has not done yet.
Zimmer provided Kornacki with her diary entries from the dates that the alleged shakedowns occurred and tied the redevelopment project to the law firm Wolff and Samson, which represented the Rockefeller Group, the organization in charge of the redevelopment project. Port Authority Chairman David Samson, a Christie ally involved in the George Washington Bridge affair, leads Wolff and Samson.
Zimmer is not the first mayor from Hudson County to accuse Governor Christie's office of using strong-arm tactics to force other politicians to bend to his will. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who is mentioned derisively in the emails between Christie officials released by the New Jersey Legislature regarding the closing of lanes of the George Washington Bridge, accused Christie's office of cutting off meetings with him after Fulop refused to endorse their boss.
Hudson County has a long, storied history of corruption and graft. Zimmer's predecessor, Peter Cammarano, was arrested within a month of his tenure for accepting a bribe. Fulop's predecessor, Jerramiah Healy, governed during one of the most extensive corruption stings Jersey City has seen in the post-Hague era.
Christie spokesperson Michael Drewniak responded to the allegations by highlighting Zimmer's previous "effusive" praise of Governor Christie. "What or who is driving her only now to say such outlandishly false things is anyone's guess," he told MSNBC. New Jersey's Department of Community Affairs, for which Constable works as commissioner, also denied the claims as "categorically false."
Christie's office is under investigation by the New Jersey Legislature over the closing of local lanes of the bridge that leads to Fort Lee, NJ. Emails published in The Record show Christie's former Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Kelly, ordering Christie aide David Wildstein to cause "some traffic problems" in the city, presumably for political retribution against Mayor Mark Sokolich.
Christie's office is also undergoing a federal audit regarding his use of Hurricane Sandy funds, as CNN reports that some have alleged that Christie misused hurricane relief funds to pay for advertisements that prominently featured him and his family during his reelection campaign last year. A study released this week also found that Sandy funds were being redistributed unfairly, with black and Latino New Jerseyans being rejected by higher percentages for relief funds than white applicants.
The web of New Jersey political figures becomes even more entangled given the relationship between Steve Kornacki, the host of the program on which Zimmer made her allegations, and David Wildstein, the alleged mastermind of the BridgeGate project. Wildstein hired Kornacki to write for his website, PoliticsNJ, when he was anonymously known as blogger "Wally Edge." Kornacki has claimed that he did not know who his boss was, as Wally Edge's identity remained a closely-kept secret for years. Wildstein was outed as Edge in 2010.
Watch the MSNBC segment this morning in which Zimmer makes her accusations regarding Christie public here.