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. clarinet

    Democrats lie with such ease.

    January 19, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |

    When you allocate $61B in federal aid for a 68$B storm, are you surprised EVERYONE has their had in the cookie jar? All damage should be fixed with the Feds paying ~90% of the damage bill. Did that happen?

    January 19, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. Cindy

    Ya left out the part about Hoboken already being given $700M with billions being committed once full Sandy funds are received from Washington.

    The Dems are on a witch hunt.

    January 19, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  4. Scott

    "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." – Now that's just hilarious.

    January 19, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  5. anthrogirl

    Ahhhhh, this reminds me of the Sopranos. You can murder someone but without proof, you're free to go about your business. Looks like people are beginning to unearth the bodies. Christie is going to have a hard time. While I don't think he'll be impeached, he will embarrass the GOP and NJ enough that he'll take forced to keep a low profile. I was born and grew up in south Jersey. New Jersey does not like to be the focus of jokes. And their governor is big joke right now.

    January 19, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  6. Fred G. Sanford

    Christie's in big big trouble.

    January 19, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  7. Reality

    You folks need to get out in the real world. The reporter is a liar, the president of the us is guilty, the communist news network, get a brain people, omg. The truth will come out over the next few weeks, whatever it is. Christy is guilty of being out of touch with his key staff, that he selected and trained, at the very least. Love to have this level of management in the White House, right. Let's see, a while back, GOP bully, watergate, "I am not a crook", just what we need again...how quickly they forget. Out of the hundreds of millions of people in the us this is the best we can go for, really?

    January 19, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  8. James Van Hise

    Proof? Hoboken requested $100 million in Sandy aid. They got $300,000. People have wondered about this before. All Christie has to do is explain why Hoboken only got 1% of the aid it requested and he can debunk the story. But instead he's attacking the news media rather than addressing the issue itself.

    January 19, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  9. Whatever

    This isn't a left right thing, and you have to watch out for the trolls who are making it such. This is a glimpse at how our politicians get corrupted by money and power. This is how our federal govt is not ours. Keep fighting pretend ideological problems or demand real solutions to this one. It will make the next one easier to expose. There is a bigger enemy to be defeated here, the 1% and the banksters.

    January 19, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  10. SaraD

    What about the cancer patient who spoke out against Obamacare and was audited right after? What about the conservative groups who were harassed and rights were dwarfed by the IRS? Dr. Anne Hendershott Claims IRS Audited Her After Speaking Out Against Obamacare. Dr. Ben Carson gave a wonderful and thoughtful speech at the National Prayer Breakfast where he clearly did not support Obamacare, and right after received a visit by the IRS. An arm of the U.S. government is persecuting conservatives, and you remain silent on this important issue?

    January 19, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  11. Atul C

    Shows dems are scared of Christie.

    January 19, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  12. nepawoods

    These scandals don't matter. Nobody actually believed the GOP would have put their hopes in Christie, and NJ embraces political corruption.

    January 19, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  13. zappo15

    All partisanship aside there is too much evidence that Christie is a bum with many sided truths whose political career should end.

    January 19, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. Melissa

    Cindy you are lying. Hoboken has only received 300k of the millions approved for them

    January 19, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  15. Grahame Rhodes

    Really! have you never heard of storm insurance which was where the bulk of the money came from. A tepid response from some twit in the governors office does not cut it. so what else did you expect Colin Reed to say? Did you expect the governors office to admit it?

    January 19, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. Marc Florida

    It's a nasty allegation but has very high credibility. One thing for sure, my respect for Christie is zero. As for American politics – credibility – zero. Our politic has become too corrupt. Elected officials need to do a lot of soul searching and understand the need for integrity, commentment to this nation, and the need to regain the trust of the American people.

    January 19, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. David Evan Karasek

    There's also systemic problems with mass transit in South Jersey during the Christie Administration's time in office that no one seems to mention. Specifically, Federal Stimulus dollars built a 40 million dollar train station that almost no one can use because there's almost no rush hour trains on the Atlantic City Line. Even more money was spent on a high priced study which advised that New Jersey Transit add trains. The Governor and his appointees at NJT are so anti mass transit in South Jersey that the trains will likely never be added. At the same time, the other train line running from South Philly to Philadelphia, called PATCO, run by DRPA whose management is appointees by Governor's Christie and Corbett, is also in functional distress. Due to the intentional decision to defer maintenance costs and not sign a maintenance agreement, almost all escalators and elevators in the 13 station system have failed. Riders had to sue the agency via the Feds who are now mandating repairs or cutting off Federal funding for the system. In addition, PATCO service is down to running on one rail over the Ben Franklin Bridge due to the fact that the rails have to be replaced on the bridge. This in effect leaves all of South Jersey with no efficient rail based transit options for the immediate future.

    January 19, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  18. joel palmer

    Christie and his paid thugs are shown to be exactly what they are, mean and nasty bullies. The FACTS are stark; Hoboken got $175K out of about $100 million. This woman's story will be proved true; aand Christoes henchmen witl be proved liars. Count on it

    January 19, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  19. jpb

    yes Cindy witch hunt, the GOP are not they are all saints without sins.

    January 19, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  20. Bill

    So Candy Canes response at the end was to ask her expert panel – so is Christie guilty or is he just incompetent – and does this ruin his political career...after they all yammered something – she went next to the Benghazi story and concluded that Hillary could not be held accountable because there is no proof she was involved...and not one expert challenged her conclusion...guess they all wanted a chance to get their expert analysis back on her let's get Hillary elected bandwagon of a show...fair and balanced – right...

    January 19, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  21. Mary

    Christie behaves like a feudal lord from the 13th or 14th Century when dukes and barons ruled through patronage and oppression. They would send out their troops to sack, pillage and burn villages or fifedoms that did not give way to their demands. How is this different from what Christie has been doing? Is this guy stuck in time?

    January 19, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  22. joe

    Christie for president.

    January 19, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  23. YeahRight

    Man, Hillary's campaign is starting way early...

    January 19, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  24. John

    Run Christie run. Time to get out of dodge.i

    January 19, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  25. seriously_not

    @ some point they will find out that Gov. Christie was aware of some-of what happened, these things do not happen in a bubble. As for the Repub. vs. Dem., thing, why do people thing so small, hmmmm, must be the bubble thing, dah.

    January 19, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
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