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.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker'][twitter-follow screen_name='jhseher']

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. Joe

    She can say whatever she wishes; without proof, nobody should take anything this broad says seriously.
    She could be telling the truth, or she could be a political opportunist.

    January 19, 2014 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  2. Freedom Ain't Free

    Christie can forget about his Presidential ambitions.

    He'll be lucky to finish his second term as governor.

    January 19, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  3. Larry

    The "Christie-Republican way" of doing things is unAmerican. Who wants anyone in power who "Doesn't know what his aides are doing". That means he doesn't read newspapers, take phone calls or receive texts. Does he play video games all day? You know how to vote this November.

    January 19, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  4. Tommy

    Pork being rendered into bacon-

    January 19, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  5. Ted Max

    Candy Crowley? That proven liar that lied to the American people in a lame attempt to make excuses for Obama's failures during the debates last year? Yeah.... that same liar.

    January 19, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  6. sanity

    Candy Crowley!! She the same one who lied to support Obama in his debate with Romney.

    January 19, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  7. Done with NJ Politics

    I am not a fan of Gov. Christie, always thought of him as a bully and its holding true.

    January 19, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  8. Leo Smith

    Nobody does believe you.. How much has the Hillary Campaign given you in the last month?

    January 19, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  9. Mike

    While this dirt throwing may seem partisan pettiness, this is just business as-usual in American politics. NO ONE is surprised that the governor;s office will twist arm to get things done for hies/her friends/donors. Christie isn't the only one to do that, not will be the last. The people of this great nation have become "used to" such dirty politics, and actually just accept it as part of the "system". If not Christie, some other governor would be doing the same thing too, so he isn't to be singled out. That doesn't mean that C isn't corrupt, oh he is up to his neck, but that's ALL politicians across either parties.

    January 19, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  10. Ishmael Finn

    While I am no fan of Chris Christie, I'm surprised at the speed in which the Democrat parry is moving to remove Christie as an obstacle in 2016 and at the wall of resistance Christie is attempting to marshal in order to counteract them. The GOP had better take note and back a winner. If they don't close ranks around a front-runner like Christie, they will be stuck with a loser like Romney....again.

    January 19, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  11. Jerry

    Another fake drama story here on the communist news network, if any one withheld money it was obama

    January 19, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  12. John

    The walls are caving in on Christie and his political aspirations are over. Everyone who he bullied through politics is now going to join in the wave of testimonials to his methods.

    So long, fat boy.

    January 19, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  13. Losers

    Yea...one liberal whining to another...does anyone care.

    January 19, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  14. HenryB

    Boy, the responses to this story are interesting. What a violent response by the right wing. When the right does this, we have to consider that what is in the story may be correct.

    January 19, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  15. Dunner

    If it walks like a bully, if it talks like a bully, if it looks like a bully and if it acts like a bully, it's a bully! Christie you're a bully!

    January 19, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  16. drake mallard

    If we lie to the government, we go to jail. If they lie to us, and they do it all the time, it’s not a problem. People used to believe that our better days were ahead of us as a nation, but I think that our better days are behind us

    January 19, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  17. sbp

    Not too difficult to substantiate. Just find out how much in funds DID go to Hoboken, how much would be expected to go, and whether Hoboken government filed the appropriate paperwork.

    January 19, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  18. Scott

    I get standing up for your party, but how can ANYONE continue to defend this guy. He is so dirty, corrupt, and inappropriate it's absurd!

    January 19, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  19. VJ

    Christie's time is over....

    January 19, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  20. Freedom Ain't Free

    The mayor is willing to testify under oath and take a lie detector test.

    The Christie administration.....not so much.

    Who do you think is more believable?

    January 19, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  21. chirpieguy

    My least favorite comment section format in all of the internet. ^_^

    January 19, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  22. Desel

    It's time for the Republicans to go to plan B for their 2016 presidential nominee. CHRIS CRISTIE IS TOAST!!!!!!

    January 19, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  23. Castlin

    Screw this guy. He's nothing but a bully. I can understand and dismiss one accusation of politcal strong arming, but now they're popping up all over the place and it really makes me wonder about his character.

    And to think that I wanted him as my president; I think not!

    January 19, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  24. Jane

    Can't wait for mid- term elections – no amount of falsehoods and drama will save the democrat majority

    January 19, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  25. BlueinRedState

    How is this "breaking" when the article states that "Zimmer appeared on MSNBC a day earlier..."?

    Just sayin....

    January 19, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7