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. USA John

    Both sides are now going to come up with something aginst Christie, because he seems to really work for the people.. gotta get him out, hes not playing the game like the rest want it...

    January 19, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  2. Ralph

    It's called politics and every politician does this. Or haven't you heard Obama tell people that "elections have consequences"? Only Democratic Sheep think this is a scandal. Now what about a president who covered up Benghazi, used the IRS to punish his enemies, helped the mullahs in Iran, gave succor to the Muslim Brotherhood, deserted the only democracy in the Middle East, kills innocent people in drone strikes, and a host of other crimes. I'd call him the real criminal.

    January 19, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  3. srcactus

    Remember the GOOD old USA when you were innocent until proven guilty and before gimme the free stuff?

    January 19, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  4. Really?

    No we don't believe Zimmer. And when you start throwing the Rockefeller name around in a negative way, you normally disappear without a sound.

    January 19, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  5. Paul

    I wish CNN would be fair in their reporting. I'm not a Christie fan, but come on. Where is all the shock and surprise reporting of the Federal Government's "political retaliation" from the IRS? Or how the Justice Department chose a Obama backer to head up the investigation of the IRS. The liberal media is loving the chance to tear down a potential Republican Presidentail candidate, but mums the word on Hilary purposely decieving the American people about Benghazi. Four people losing their lives trumps a traffic jam. And here is another one, how many innocent Mexicans lost their lives to drug cartels who where supplied weapons by the Justice Department?

    January 19, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  6. Hawk in Texas

    Christie is toast.

    January 19, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  7. elkogirl

    Zimmer claims she wouldn't be believed, but more likely she thought she would be believed, lose her job, and be in a world of hurt. Christie is and was a bully, IMO.

    January 19, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  8. Scott

    I'm an Independent and I don't agree with some things Obama has done. However, it's pathetic that close-minded Republicans just automatically jump on the Hoboken mayor because she's a Democrat, and defend C.C. because he's a Republican. There is a WEALTH of information that Christie is a dirty, corrupt bully who has done illegal things while in office. Yet, because of political party, some people just call this mayor a liar because they don't want to believe the truth about him. Honestly, the only thing worse than filthy politicians are those that blindly follow them. It's why I'm an Independent and refuse to get sucked into either party too deeply.

    January 19, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  9. Jin

    People forget when the Clinton's left the White House, they were ordered to return the silverware and White House china they took.

    January 19, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  10. Bert974

    Did O'Bama require an endorsement from Christie before allocating disaster relief funds?
    Is that how he got re-elected?

    January 19, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  11. ponderingitall

    Why did I click this link. It must have been like finding a needle in a haystack getting someone from Jersey to throw Christie under the bus....

    January 19, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  12. Jin

    Why didn't they lock up old man Democratic Senator Reed who lied when he said Romney did not pay taxes for 10 years and it was a lied to throw off the voting public. That was pretty dirty and I have a feeling this is what they are doing to Christie right after news broke he was ahead in the polls with Clinton. If there is a debate, I really hope someone brings up and asks Hillary why they took the china and silverware when Bill left the White House and were forced to return it.

    January 19, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  13. pov

    I love those who are certain the Mayor is lying. As if the Christie staff isn't known for playing hardball.

    If what you said was correct – it isn't – there wouldn't be a story would there/

    January 19, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  14. Barry

    Where there is smoke there is fire. Although I liked Christie and was willing to give him the benefit of a very big doubt, he is as corrupt as any other politician but worse because of his excellent ability to deceive people.

    January 19, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  15. MONEY!!

    Money, get away... Get a good job with more pay and your O.K.
    Money it's a gas... Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash

    New car, caviar, four star daydream, Think I'll buy me a football team.
    Money get back, I'm all right Jack keep your hands off my stack.
    Money it's a hit... Don't give me that do goody good bs.
    I'm in the hi-fidelity first class traveling set
    And I think I need a Lear jet

    Money it's a crime... Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie
    Money so they say... Is the root of all evil today

    But if you ask for a rise it's no surprise that they're, giving none away!

    January 19, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. conoclast

    Welcome to the arcane world of Joisey Politics, where the heat in the kitchen is permanently set on "smelt".

    And the Obama-haters all point to Chicago when THIS is considered normal behavior??

    January 19, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  17. Jin

    Are people signing up for Obama Care, then after a month dropping the insurance policy knowing they met the criteria of just signing up so they are not penalized. Notice all insurance stocks tripled last year so I wonder who was behind the lobbying of OBCare. There should be one policy that the government sponsors like in Vermont and enough with all of the insurance companies hands in the soup. Think how much less expensive insurance would be if you took the insurance companies profits out of the equation. This is a win win if the government just had one national policy like in Europe instead of individual state run programs. Let the insurance companies insure bridges and building and people's lives, but stay out of people's health and the games they play.

    January 19, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  18. Phil Thomas

    Wow you can tell the heritage foundation and fox news interns posting its like they have Google alerts and only manage to post early morning. You clowns try to pin stuff on Obama hard that folks in a republican ran IRS office did and a program Bush started trading guns years and nothing. This is Christie's office, cabinet no comparison please shut up but I get it you need that pay check from your employer to post vile things

    January 19, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  19. whitehawg

    Yes some libs were late to work because of bridge gate. But at this point, "what difference does it make". Argument was OK for Hillary

    January 19, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  20. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    This is the way the GOP has been doing business for years, represent big business at the expense of the middle class. Vote for the GOP at your own peril, I'm NOT!!!!!!!

    January 19, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  21. Marie MD

    @USA John, take out the name Christie and insert Obama. Sound familiar? The only difference is that our President IS trying to help the country and he's NOT a bully.
    "Both sides are now going to come up with something aginst Christie, because he seems to really work for the people.. gotta get him out, hes not playing the game like the rest want it..."
    @paul, there's nothing regarding the IRS because the person who was in charge of the investigation is a self proclaimed right wing conservative.
    There's nothing new about Benghazi. The car thief and his cronies tried again and again and came up empty.
    As far as bridge-gate there's a report that a woman died. Our embassies were attacked 13 times under the shrub#43 administration. Did you question those attacks? Didn't think so.

    January 19, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  22. pierre

    that's how the game play u get cough deal with it christie play NJ ppl his is nice guy politic is game

    January 19, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  23. BiKlein

    Running scared ain't no way to conduct a campaign, girl

    What's the matter, Hillary? Do some things matter after all? Were Christie's consistent poll numbers that showed him beating you that alarming, dearie? Like a 3 AM wake-up call that you just had to answer because, well, you weren't so busy soliciting votes in Las Vegas to ignore it?

    January 19, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. Penny Wright

    Christie is toast. He lied and peddled influence like a mob boss.

    January 19, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  25. ChrisM

    Christie is Toast. Next!

    January 19, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
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