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Mayor Claims Chris Christie Is Holding Sandy Relief Hostage To Help Private Developer

CREDIT: AP Photo/Charles Sykes

Hoboken in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has accused two aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) of withholding relief aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy out of retribution for the city’s failure to approve a development project supported by the governor. The new accusations come as the Christie administration is facing investigations into lane closures on the George Washington Bridge and whether it misused Sandy relief funds to pay for television ads starring the governor.

On Saturday, during an appearance on MSNBC’s Up with Steve Kornacki, Zimmer shared emails and diary entries accusing Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, of delivering messages suggesting that Hoboken would not receive all of the disaster aid it requested unless the mayor approved redevelopment project led by the Rockefeller Group, a New York developer. The project had been put on hold after the Hoboken Planning Board voted against it and declared the area slated for development “in need of rehabilitation.”

Soon after, the Christie administration appropriated “less than 1% of what Hoboken had sought” for Sandy relief, though officials close to the governor promised that the money would start flowing if the Rockefeller development project was approved:

On May 13, Guadagno and Zimmer met at the Hoboken ShopRite. That is where, Zimmer said, Guadagno delivered the first message about the relief aide.

Zimmer shared this diary entry which she said she wrote later that day. “At the end of a big tour of ShopRite and meeting, she pulls me aside with no one else around and 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.”

The second warning, according to Zimmer, came four days later. She and Constable, who now led Christie’s department of community affairs, were seated together on stage for a public television special on Sandy recovery. […]

“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.

“I cannot give a windfall to one property owner because the governor and other people want me to do it,” Zimmer told MSNBC.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak denied Zimmer’s claims. “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,” he said. “What or who is driving her only now to say such outlandishly false things is anyone’s guess.”