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. Lynda/Minnesota

    Cindy –

    You have your facts wrong. Hoboken has NOT already been given $700M with billions being committed. Where exactly did you read otherwise?

    January 19, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  2. John

    it is a sad state of affairs when the average American feels they must defend a crook, just because he may have helped them.

    January 19, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  3. Roland

    Whos the iceman next to christie

    January 19, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  4. calvin

    I hate politics.

    January 19, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  5. u laby

    "What difference does it make?"

    January 19, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  6. chef2angler

    This article was posted less than an hour ago...already Republicans are ....

    January 19, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  7. Roland

    really moderation. whos the iceman next to christie

    January 19, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  8. Reddog9500

    American politics/politicians are so dirty and ruthless that they will do anything short of murder to be/stay in power. Time for another American Revolution, folks. At the least, time for a revolution at the voting booth. Throw them ALL (Democrat or Republican) out and start fresh. But we all know that's not going to happen. We The People have the politicians/government we deserve.

    January 19, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  9. Fartz McKenzie

    Christie is a goner. he will be impeached over this because this woman has the emails and proof she needs to bring him down. Christie said in a statement that 70 million had been set aside to give the city yet they only got 325,000.00. He is done stick him with a fork.

    January 19, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  10. alpha444

    I didn't think anyone would believe me? That's pretty weak. Of course, with recent events, why not pile on as it really adds to your credibility...not. Any Mayor who would make a statement like that shouldn't be a Mayor.
    It sounds like she did not get all of the money that she wanted and sees this as an opportunity for retaliation. Call me crazy, but Hoboken (one square mile) is not the only area that needed money. no one ever thinks they have gotten their "fair share".

    January 19, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  11. zandhcats

    Christie is a corrupted politician since he has started his political career. One can defend for the party affiliation but the deficit, the failure of public schools(well funded), and the high unemployment rate in NJ reveal the truth.

    January 19, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  12. areyouforseriousmyboy

    so if this actually happened why didn't she try to make christie lose the election...oh that's right, because it never happened......

    January 19, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  13. zelskid

    The bad news surfaces daily. His hardball politics has killed his chance to be nominated president

    January 19, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  14. kathy

    Once again the GOP and right wing are immediately calling this a witch hunt and lies. What about the possibility that there does exist within politics a huge corrupt machine. This woman's story sounds very credible and she doesn't appear to have any agenda except to tell the truth. Christie is toast....and he'll probably eat it when it's done.

    January 19, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  15. Henry

    I'm not sure what's more tragic; Having a sleazy player like this in office being held up as a great choice as the next president or the way people respond to his sleaziness being exposed. It's somehow the Democrat's fault according to many of the people reading the story. ?!? Or it's the fault of whichever news outlet on which the story happens to appear. Or, most commonly, it just doesn't matter because every single person in office is exactly this sleazy anyway and Christie is just being picked on.

    People seem cynical to the point of being completely nuts. But if we could focus on what really matters, yes, this is the kind of behavior that disqualifies people from holding public office. It's not just some convoluted partisan game. Yes, others have behaved in office this way before but that doesn't mean they all do and it does mean you can't trust this particular character.

    January 19, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  16. Bryan

    Welcome to american politics, you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours...But if you don't work with me then watch out, I might not be able to help you with your agenda...This has always happened in the US and everywhere in the world...This is a non story...Ask every politician in america, and if they have had to jockey for position to get things done for what they want and need for the people they represent.

    January 19, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  17. agentxyz

    I know a guy who looks just like her.

    January 19, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  18. srcactus

    All of the little Dems are out throwing rocks and all of the little Pubs are out defending with their shields. Politics are so much fun ast we watch the food fights for entertainment.

    May I please see a responsible adult in public office please?

    January 19, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  19. Hillary

    The noose around Christie's fat neck keeps getting tighter. He's damaged goods; who will the repubs nominate?

    January 19, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  20. Mitch

    SOP for the GOP.

    January 19, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  21. Dan

    I think the fat guy weathers this, though I don't care if he does

    January 19, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  22. Patriot

    Are we surprised? Just typical Republican behavior.

    January 19, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  23. Rick

    No, No, Cindy where did you get $700 from? Typical Rupug, it's $70 million.

    January 19, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  24. NeoPrudentist

    And now the hyenas sense weakness and are coming in for the kill. Get ready for more of these stories as people around Christy now see him as being vulnerable. If he wants to remain viable, he's going to need to turn the tone of these media stories around, and fast.

    January 19, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  25. Deathstalker74

    As the liberal media loved to saying during the REAL scandal known as Benghazi, the Democrats have "overreached" on this.

    January 19, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
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