If you read one story today, make it “Hoboken Mayor: Christie Team Shook Us Down for Sandy Relief,” Brian Murphy, Talking Points Memo (http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/hoboken-mayor-christie-team-shook-us-down-for-sandy-relief).
Some excerpts (but read the whole thing):
“On MSNBC’s ‘Up with Steve Kornacki’ this morning, Hoboken, N.J. mayor Dawn Zimmer offered an extraordinary account of her dealings with the administration of Governor Chris Christie concerning federal Hurricane Sandy relief aid. She described an effort by top state officials – the lieutenant governor and a cabinet member – to coerce Hoboken’s city government into fast-tracking approval of a proposed redevelopment project by withholding Sandy aid from the government and residents of her city. That project, she says she was told, was ‘very important to the governor.’ And if she worked to get it approved, ‘the money would start flowing to you.’
“It just so happens that the proposed project in question is situated on three blocks of land owned by the Rockefeller Group, a client of the law firm of Wolff & Samson. That firm was founded by Christie confidante David Samson, a former state attorney general who Christie tapped to head his transition team in 2009. In 2011 the governor appointed Samson to become the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where he remains today.
“Hoboken received only 1% of the aid they had requested for Hurricane Sandy relief and planning funds even though it was one of the hardest-hit communities in the state during the storm. At one point, 80% of the 50,000 person city was flooded. If you remember the footage of water gushing through an underground subway station, that was in Hoboken; it has, in fact, the highest per-capita use of public transit of any city in America. Yet so far the state of New Jersey has given the city about $350,000 from the billions of dollars in federal disaster relief and planning aid that it is charged with administering. That’s about $6 per resident. It has been enough to pay for one major planning study and to buy one backup generator for an $18 million emergency storm water pump.
“50,000 people. 80% flooded. $6 a head.
“News outlets and the mayor have both wondered if the anemic aid was a punishment for Zimmer not endorsing the governor’s reelection bid. Mayors in Jersey City, Elizabeth, and other New Jersey municipalities have been asking the same question since Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich raised the possibility that his refusal to endorse Christie led to the lane closures on GWB and the four-day-long traffic nightmare in that town.
“This Hoboken story and the Fort Lee/GWB story might seem like separate tales. But they’re not. Moreover, these latest revelations put to rest the notion that Hoboken’s Sandy aid or the Fort Lee/GWB story have anything to do with local Democratic officials’ endorsement of the governor during his reelection campaign. Forget about the endorsements. It never really added up anyway.
“It’s time to retire hashtag headline word ‘Bridgegate.’ The term doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.”
Murphy notes that of the nineteen-block neighborhood that was part of a 2013 study for redevelopment (a technical term that means you qualify for tax abatement, tax credits, grants, and other goodies), only the three blocks owned by the Rockefeller Group (David Samson’s client) were deemed eligible.