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. TruConservative

    Obviously a leftist Obama liberal Benghazi derp leftist socialism something leftist.

    January 19, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  2. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    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.

    Uh, no... More like- I got what you need by asking everybody else for it. They gave because they saw you were in need and I promised to give it to you. Now I'm withholding it, because you won't help enrich my friends. Sounds like extortion.

    That's YOUR normal?!? Pity...

    January 19, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  3. Sharon Mahart

    If the governor really did these things, then he's being rightfully called out by the media. But what about the half dozen scandals our president is embroiled in? Where's the media scrutiny on those cases? Nixon resigned for a fraction of the lies and deceptions Barack Hussein has perpetrated against the American people.

    January 19, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. g

    Democrats lie with such ease? Are the Republicans still looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

    January 19, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  5. Stop wasting time

    This kinda crap doesn't surprise me at all.

    January 19, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  6. Bert974

    Sounds slightly crooked to me, but to most Amerikans this story may make Christie a tough hard-boiled pragmatist who has learned to play the game to get things done. I can hear conformists going "Grow up. That is the way things work in the adult world." This may make him a tough get-things -done sort of guy to voters. After all, they re-elected Nixon.

    January 19, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  7. nightwriter

    @clarinet ... and you generalize and jump to conclusions with so much ease.

    January 19, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  8. Tony P.

    Lets talk about timming.... Before all this started the NJ Gov was the only Rep that in polls beat every Dem including Clinton. Then excerpts from Gates book are about to come out then Bridgegate hits. So the reporting about the book is muffeld. As it picks up again Frank Pallone talks about the Gov TV ads. Then the Bi Part Benghazi report comes out and it really doesn't look good for Dems, then all of a sudden the Hobooken Mayor speaks up?? As a Registered Independant from PA common people give me a break this isn't political? The Past NJ Govs were the most corrupt in the country Jim McGreevey resigned in disgrace (Dem), Jon Corzine Mr. MF Global (Dem). What I think should be done is start subpoenaing Phone and email records to show how far this game is going to get the NJ Gov out of 2016. I have a feeling it would go all the way the head of the Dem Party President who right now is following him in Florida. Its time for the American people to wake up and take the Blinders off their eyes so they can really see whats happening. Both parties are hurting the American people. It's time for a third Party. A serious Third Party.

    January 19, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  9. Amy

    The people who keep making excuses for Christie are like women who keep taking violent husbands back. They seem to have a blind eye toward his behavior and continue stating the behavior is someone else's fault.

    January 19, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  10. Somemorebs

    Repubs steal with such ease.

    January 19, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  11. You say what

    MSNBC would be wise to lay off the constant attacks on Christie. There is the old saying "give 'em enough rope and they will hang themselves' which would be appropriate at this moment in time. The republican machine was already working on destroying Christie and this just muddies the waters. Republicans would never allow him to be nominated for fear of him being too moderate. They are looking for someone along the lines of Santorum or Huckabee to head the ticket. This is all very good news for the democrats.

    January 19, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  12. Fr33th1nk3r

    "Democrats lie with such ease."

    Yeah, this has a lot to do with Democrats, CLARINET....fatso has now:
    1) deliberately caused traffic problems for
    political coercion (thus hurting the taxpayers, not his political opponents).
    2) now was running Sandy relief funds mafia-style....

    No wonder the GOP is going extinct, if clowns like this are the best they can come up with for 2016. Hillary is going to steal their pants,,,,

    January 19, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  13. lagunalad

    The skeletons are just clawing to get out of Christie's plus size closet.

    January 19, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  14. MegaSarcastic

    Wow! Corruption in government! I am shocked, I tell you, Shocked!

    January 19, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  15. Tim B.

    'I didn't think anyone would believe me'................and they still don't!

    January 19, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  16. Christie is done! take the fork out....

    Christie is done! take the fork out....

    January 19, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  17. Kristine

    Weird she doesn't report this to ANYONE and waits until an opportune time to announce this on MSNBC.

    Sorry but this reeks of a democrat witch hunt.

    January 19, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  18. Skipper Sam

    partisan politics by Christie

    January 19, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  19. Fr33th1nk3r

    Better pull out the Benghazi distraction card, GOPers....2016 is looking less and less likely for a GOP rebound.

    January 19, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  20. Vusi

    He gone...and how can he still be so fat even with gastric bypass?

    January 19, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  21. KeninTexas

    This sounds like just another democrat "piling on" to Christie. Why did she not say anything before? Why was she saying such nice things about Christie later in the year such as she was glad he was governor? Because she is twisting what was said to fit a particular agenda either intentionally or even unintentionally. The supposed conversation happened early last year. If the Lt. Governor said that she should get behind the project because Christie was pushing it, that doesn't mean they were planning to hold back any Sandy money. It would more like just a comment trying to get her support that she had been holding out on. But now it's being weaved into another fabric.

    January 19, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  22. Snoopy

    Republicans lie with such ease.

    January 19, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  23. Steve

    This story is fishy. Governor's office is not in a position to control federal disaster relief funds. There is a regulated process for distributing funds – the Governor doesn't just dole it out. And we need to stop mixing up flood insurance funds with true disaster relief which include Individual and Public Assistance for uninsured losses.

    January 19, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  24. Grinning Libber

    Smell the regressive FEAR.
    Their one legitimate hope for 2016 – gone!

    January 19, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  25. Jin

    Hoboken is one small town when you consider the New York City, all the boroughs, Long Island, Connecticut, all of New Jersey has to share that money. What it sounds like is the real state developer may have had a hand in things, but the things, but remember Obama was there making a deal with Christie. You don't know if one of the conditions of getting the money was to make sure certain things happened. Look at Connecticut. The Democratic governor won the day after Obama and Clinton visited Bridgeport and Bridgeport ended up having problems with the vote that won Malloy the election. I don't recall exactly what the law and program was, but the weird thing is the first order of business for Malloy was taking care of the inner city including Bridgeport. Who knows, this could have been a setup for Christie who thought the Federal gift was genuine and was following White House orders.

    January 19, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
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