“Cut from the Same Corrupt Cloth”

From “A Hostage to Christie in Hoboken,” Amy Davidson, The New Yorker:

chris-christie-dawn-zimmer-580.jpg

“The bottom line is, 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,” Mayor Dawn Zimmer told Steve Kornacki, of MSNBC, this weekend. By Sunday, she said she was meeting with the United States Attorney’s office, showing them diary entries and other notes she made last May. That was when, she says, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno pulled her aside in a ShopRite parking lot (why is so much New Jersey state business conducted in parking lots?) for a few words about large sums of money.

There were two pools of cash: what a developer called the Rockefeller Group and others might make from four acres of North Hoboken, and what the city might get from a quarter-billion-dollar Sandy relief fund that Chris Christie had a say in distributing. At ShopRite, according to Zimmer, “with no one else around,” the Lieutenant Governor

says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project. 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.

Christie officials have now denied it, though the protestations have been flustered and, at times, demonstrably disingenuous and off point.

“I don’t know what they were trying to get in the Bridgegate, but I do know what they’re trying to get in Hoboken. They’re holding our Sandy funds hostage in order to get pushed through and expedite the Rockefeller project,” Zimmer told CNN’s Candy Crowley.

The Rockefeller project involved a skyscraper and surrounding complex across from Manhattan, in a densely populated area a short PATH train ride from the city. … Nineteen blocks were candidates for redevelopment. Strangely, a study commissioned by the state found that only three blocks were appropriate—the very three owned by the Rockefeller Group. …[T]he other property owners went to the planning board and “asked why ‘a redevelopment plan for the exclusive benefit’ of the Rockefeller Group would ‘[favor] a single property owner to the detriment of all other property owners in the North End Area.’ ” The board then voted not to accept the study, holding up the project. This was the heart of the problem, Zimmer said, that she was told to make go away.

 

Incidentally or not, the Rockefeller Group had hired the law firm of David Samson, Christie’s top appointee to the Port Authority.

 

“I thought he was honest. I thought he was moral,” Zimmer wrote of Christie in a diary entry, last May, which she’s now given to prosecutors. “I thought he was something very different. This week, I found out he’s cut from the same corrupt cloth that I’ve been fighting for the last four years. I am so disappointed. It literally brings tears to my eyes.”

 

If Zimmer really felt that way—if he had really hurt her—why would she smile politely and say hello? They have pointed to a tweet: “To be clear I am very glad Governor Christie has been our Gov.” The reason she had to be clear was that she wasn’t endorsing him for governor, something that, as we’ve learned, the Governor really wanted mayors to do. Even in her interview with Kornacki, she talked about Christie policies she admired. Zimmer didn’t sound like someone with a grudge; she described herself as someone who just felt stuck. Zimmer’s explanation for her silence is the same one heard in a lot of middle schools: she thought that she and Hoboken would have a harder time if she didn’t, and the people she wanted as friends wouldn’t be on her side. “I was really concerned that, if I came forward, no one believed me, that we would really be cut out of the Sandy funding,” more of which was on the table, she told Crowley.

 

Photograph: Andrew Burton/Getty

 

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