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. darryn

    This normal human behavior I got what you need now give what I want. Just image what has happen to he poor with powers at be play sandbox games.

    January 19, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  2. Bob Bobson


    "Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee."


    "Time to let the people of Hoboken drown."

    January 19, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  3. Joe M.

    As long as we're making accusations with no evidence to back them up...Christie killed Kennedy! He was the second shooter!

    January 19, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  4. Democratic party SPLAT

    I guess the democrats are really, really worried about the 2014 and 2016 election results. let's face it, the Obama administration and all his minions have really short changd the country, and it looks like it may be a clean sweep in 2016.

    January 19, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  5. realitypolice

    I love how coverage of politics by the media works. Before Bridgegate, Christie could do no wrong. Anyone who came forward with anything negative about him was marginalized or ignored. Now, in a weeks time, everything everyone says about him is front and center and presented as the God's honest truth. Not one raised eyebrow when the mayor of Hoboken claims not to be part of the machine? Anyone who lives here and has any inkling of the tortured history of Hoboken politics knows this is nonsense. The truth in politics is always somewhere in the middle. It's a shame the media seems incapable of understanding that.

    January 19, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  6. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    New Jersey politics seem to make the so called Chicago politics look pretty tame.

    January 19, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  7. Uncle Sam

    The problem is, we as voters must pick the lesser of two evils. The two major political parties are a joke. They both play politics.

    January 19, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  8. Backscratcher

    Why all the righteous indignation? Punishing your foes and rewarding your supporters is the norm. The sequestration was exactly the same thing at the highest level. The President designed the automatic cuts in a way that he thought would punish everyone and the Republicans proceeded to take him up on it. If we are going to be upset by Christie, then lets go after this kind of politics wherever it lives. That is everywhere!

    January 19, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  9. svann

    Were the funds approved for Hoboken? yes
    Were the funds given to Hoboken? no

    Then they were withheld.

    January 19, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  10. Sniffit

    Stupid Americans don't deserve any better!

    January 19, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  11. Mark


    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.
    LOL she is a broad? what cave did you crawl out of? this is just business – dirty – but still business, on the balance of probabilities, I am more likely to believe it than not.

    January 19, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  12. svann

    What happened to the $70 million? Christie says he didnt withhold it. Zimmer says she never got it! What does the bank say? $70 million is missing!

    January 19, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  13. NBE

    Yes, well, Hoboken, the cleanest-run town in NJ. Mayor Zimmer has some 'splainin' to do about her own administration. Some of my family lives there-good place but only one square mile, as the signs boast, and she can't seem to get any sort of handle on major issues, like flooding that has nothing to do with Sandy, like parking, like river-front uses, like the Path operations, like building/rehab permissions and denials. She has a great town, and a great town deserves . . . not her.

    January 19, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  14. Catherine

    Say what you will about Christie, but he is an advocate for the people of NJ. He takes care of his own, and we need more of that in this world.

    January 19, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  15. Henry

    Well I can understand why people would give Christie the benefit of the doubt on this. After all, he's, uhm, well he, uuhhhh, no, never mind.

    January 19, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  16. keith

    There is a reason they don't call her Salad Crowley

    January 19, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  17. Sadie

    Crowley....ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha lying again. Just tickles my innards once more!!!! She made a fool out of herself on public television during the debates and is at it again. Sure, I like Christie, but, let's face it, if they want to take him out, by lying and cheating, which is the typical DEMOCRAT way (and they are really starting early because they know that Hillary doesn't have a snowball's chance is Haiti because of all her crap baggage...and Biden...OMG!), we may get another chance with Romney.....YES< PLEASE!!!!!!!

    January 19, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  18. Lynda/Minnesota

    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.

    What I find interesting is why all of this came out until AFTER Christie was reelected.

    The media lost their objectivity with Christie in their willingness to forward his "bullying" as a new norm in politics. Why any reputable news organization would consistently approve his "finger in your face" pressers with chuckles and giggles from media pundits is beyond me.

    January 19, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |

    You all know this is just starting and will snowball until it totally demolishes Christie's value as a GOP presidential candidate. Sorry Republicans but you need to start looking elsewhere, or better, re-consider Jon Huntsman because Barbara won't allow Jeb to run, Cruz is a non-starter, Rubio has no appeal outside of Florida (and not much there), Walker is a fascist, Perry is too dumb (and Louie Gohmert is less intelligent ((hard to believe)) than Perry, Palin is irrelevant, Santorum is, well, ridiculous. And you better get on it right away because this Christie story has ample legs to last a long, LONG, time.

    January 19, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  20. hkirwin

    Hoboken NY is not even on the Atlantic coast. Why would they need Sandy funds??????????

    January 19, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  21. Fred G. Sanford


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

    Christie's administration.....not so much.

    January 19, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  22. scott

    @Joe Why shouldn't anyone take this broad seriously? Do you think that Christie has shown himself to be clean after all these allegations? What a ridiculous comment. We should be open-minded yes. But to be completely dismissive of her claims, that's just foolish.

    January 19, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  23. psrandy142@gmail.com

    Whose the mean lookin guy next to Christie that looks like he is ready to do him in?

    January 19, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  24. Randy, San Francisco

    Mayor Zimmer has a lot more credibility because Gov Christie no longer has the trust or good opinion of New Jersey citizens.

    January 19, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  25. Kenneth

    @ Joe "this broad"? Should we refer to you as "this uneducated neanderthal"?

    January 19, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
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