January 19th, 2014
10:01 AM ET
9 years ago

Hoboken mayor: 'I didn't think anyone would believe me'

Washington (CNN) – A day after Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer rankled the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with allegations that his office withheld Superstorm Sandy relief funding over her refusal to push through a redevelopment project, Zimmer now says the threat was "a direct message from the governor."

"It's stunning. It's outrageous. But it's true," Zimmer told CNN's Candy Crowley in an interview Sunday morning.

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Zimmer appeared on MSNBC on Saturday to level charges that members of Christie's administration pressured her to approve a redevelopment project sought by The Rockefeller Group, a real estate developer with ties to the governor's office. Zimmer said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno made the threat on behalf of Christie at a May 13 event they both attended in Hoboken. Later recording the conversation in a journal entry she shared with CNN, Zimmer recalled the lieutenant governor warned her she had "to move forward with the Rockefeller project" and labeled the demand "a direct message from the governor."

"She came and made a direct threat to me," Zimmer said of her conversation with Guadagno.

"She said that she had been with him on Friday night and that this was a direct message from the governor," Zimmer added.

In light of Zimmer's new claims, a spokesman for the Governor's office, Colin Reed, stuck by his initial dismissal of the MSNBC report Saturday, saying the mayor's allegations are nothing more than "partisan politics."

“Mayor Zimmer’s categorization about her conversation in Hoboken is categorically false,” Reed told CNN.

The Hoboken mayor refuted that characterization.

"I haven't been a part of the Democratic machine," Zimmer said, citing her frequent praise of Christie and what she describes as a solid working relationship between the two executives. "I did have a really good relationship (with the governor) so I couldn't believe they were doing this."

"This is wrong. This is not fair to Hoboken," Zimmer added.

Of her conversation with Guadagno, Zimmer told Crowley she sensed the lieutenant governor felt remorseful for relaying the message that no funds would be given to the city until The Rockefeller Group's project was approved.

"She felt almost guilty about saying it," Zimmer said. "She knows it's wrong,"

Steadfastly clinging to her account, Zimmer predicted that if the matter ultimately gets folded into the ongoing investigation of the George Washington Bridge controversy, Guadagno would confirm her story.

"If she's asked to testify under oath, I think we're going to see the truth come out because I will she be truthful under oath," Zimmer said.

Christie's office declined to make Guadagno available for an interview but sources familiar with her plans told CNN the lieutenant governor is expected to reference Zimmer's allegations during remarks Monday in Union Beach.

Zimmer's claims center around a property owned by The Rockefeller Group, which had its plan for "redevelopment" of a three-block area of Hoboken rejected by the city's planning board. Instead, the panel voted to classify the area owned by the company as available for "rehabilitation." The "redevelopment" tax incentives offered a much more lucrative deal for the development company.

In an e-mail to Zimmer, Lori Grifa, counsel for The Rockefeller Group, lobbied on behalf of the company, asking to speak directly with the mayor regarding the property.

Grifa was previously commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs for the Christie administration.

Asked by Crowley on Sunday why she had not come forward sooner, Zimmer said she was afraid her story - accusing a an overwhelmingly popular governor of the same kind of political corruption he once targeted as the state's attorney general - would have been ignored. In a June Quinnipiac University poll, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved of Christie's job performance, 69% to 27%. He won re-election in November by a crushing margin over Democratic challenger Barbara Buono.

"I didn't think anyone would believe me," Zimmer said Sunday. "I probably should have come forward sooner, but I really didn't think anyone would believe me."

Zimmer was unequivocal in backing her allegations the Christie administration continues to hold relief funds hostage until she approves the redevelopment project. She offered to testify under oath, hinting that she expects a fuller investigation of these claims.

Hoboken was one of the cities hit hardest by the 2012 hurricane, which ravaged the eastern seaboard, destroying an estimated $100 million worth of property. In its response to Zimmer’s charges, Christie’s office pointed to nearly $70 million in federal aid that was approved to help Hoboken in its recovery from the still-visible impact of Superstorm Sandy, and said more funds are set to be earmarked for the city once the White House approves the next round of funding for the state.

Zimmer described this claim as a half-truth, telling Crowley that the $70 million Trenton says the city received is from the federal flood insurance program, not from the pool of cash Congress approved specifically to help New Jersey recover from the storm. Christie took some members of his own party to task when they threatened to deny the state the funds in the name of fiscal responsibility. The Hoboken mayor said the governor's response, thus far, to her claims has danced around the central issue at stake.

"They did not respond to the No. 1 question: Are they linking Hoboken funding to the Rockefeller project?" Zimmer said. “The fact is they are."

Filed under: Chris Christie
soundoff (174 Responses)
  1. Netoriya

    We support Governor Christie. Free orange jumpsuit and initial free tub of Vaseline for Gov. Christie, please.

    January 19, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    It's Hillary's fault, huh? I can't say I didn't see that one coming a mile away.

    January 19, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  3. jerrylax

    he's standing tall….and no he has not been proven guilty of ANYTHING…but then real legality matters not for these left wing nut cases does it?

    January 19, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  4. john roach

    I think there lying to save their jobs the gov. is getting framed for something they did not him. arrest them and leave the gov alone.

    January 19, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. name

    Do you here that flush? There goes Christie's chance at presidency.

    January 19, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  6. Andrea

    It is called politics. Really? This story is not about Governor Christie – this is politics as usual. "Pork barreling, scratch my back- I'll scratch yours. "
    The media is at fault for making this about New Jersey. It happens EVERYDAY across the country at all levels of government. Sadly called politics.
    Tell the real story. It all needs to be rewired to be about the people and for the people.

    January 19, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    Why should they?

    The Dem attacks have been obviously political.

    January 19, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. Raymond

    I am going to switch to reading the BBC for real news and not propaganda!

    January 19, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  9. Thomas

    Chris Christie takes state chopper to son’s baseball game.
    Right before the lineup cards were being exchanged on the field, a noise from above distracted the spectators as the 55-foot long helicopter buzzed over trees in left field, circled the outfield and landed in an adjacent football field. Christie disembarked from the helicopter and got into a black car with tinted windows that drove him about a 100 yards to the baseball field…

    A true fiscal conservative ?

    January 19, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  10. davecu

    I, for one, don't believe you. What's your name again? Where are you mayor?
    Got proof? lay it out there. Prove it and I will apologize.
    For now, you're just a Joany come lately trying to con more votes.

    January 19, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  11. rob

    Obama lies and the left says and does nothing, a Republican lies and its the end of world and they must be removed from office.

    The country is finally seeing the left for the lying hypocrites they are. Its going to be a long year for the liars.

    January 19, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  12. James

    This is nothing but a railroading job. It definitely happens on both sides but it especially stinks this time because I think Christie is the one shining light in the Republican Party. He doesn't do the BS political song and dance and speaks his mind which is what we need. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some republicans involved because he's not the quote unquote "right type of republican."

    January 19, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  13. Alida

    Turned out to be corruption is common around Trenton, and talking about those people in Christie's Administration with that quality of jobs and they earned more than 100g-200g a year and then no unemployment benefit would be extended, that really makes the unfortunate people so jealous. And it is not that fault that jobs are still hard to get. This country is going more absurd each day.

    January 19, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    I for one will be glad the liberals take this rino out! Rand Paul is the only sane choice but sadly America is not sane! Now take your pills

    January 19, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  15. Deborah minor

    This is getting too complicated to understand! Yikes!!

    January 19, 2014 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  16. Deborah minor

    Really does anyone know what really happened? Why the focus on Christie let's get down to business and focus on Obama and why we have the highest rate of employment ever, why Benghazi was a catastrophe, why Obama lets IRS single out audits for specific business. Why is Christie taken a front seat to all of this chaos when Obama should be impeached.

    January 19, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  17. Keith

    Who cares?

    We're talking about traffic cones and not Bengazi? Really?

    January 19, 2014 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  18. ja

    Domestic terrorism, hands down, wake up, terrorism don't always involve bullets and bombs

    January 19, 2014 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  19. Simple faith

    Either all these people coming forward on Christi allegations are dishonest or they are telling the truth. I think Christi thought he could get away with his ways. Sadly discovered. If any more allegations come up it would be damaging for him.

    January 19, 2014 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  20. Debbie

    Did Candy really say that 70 million is 1/3 of 300 million?

    January 19, 2014 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  21. Thomas

    Toast and Jam.

    January 19, 2014 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    WHY did the mayor of Hoboken wait until NOW to report this if she had so much evidence? She is a duly elected public official. She is REQUIRED by LAW to report an abuse of power on the part of another public official. She's just as guilty as anyone else in this mess. Again, WHY did she WAIT until NOW?

    January 20, 2014 04:47 am at 4:47 am |

    Christie is nothing. The Guns Over People tea potty sent those blondes after their Uncle Tom Herman Cain when he won a couple of primaries. Wingnuts didn't say a word.

    January 20, 2014 05:04 am at 5:04 am |
  24. Don_in_Odessa

    I saw on another story where she said she was so devastated because she thought Christie was an honest guy.

    The guy's a street thug and like most Democraps, she's living in la la land. Neither of them should be our leaders.

    January 20, 2014 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
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