Updated Jan. 18, 2014, 5:26 p.m.
Hoboken’s mayor says New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration withheld millions of dollars in Hurricane Sandy relief money as leverage for a redevelopment plan, an allegation likely to increase public scrutiny following this month’s Bridge-gate scandal.
After Hoboken was badly hit by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, mayor Dawn Zimmer requested $127 million in aid but received less than $400,000, she said Saturday on MSNBC’s Up With Steve Kornacki. Zimmer named Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Christie’s community affairs commissioner Richard Constable as the two officials who pressured her twice to fast-track the approval, and provided emails, public records, and her own personal accounts to support her claims.
“I was emotional about governor Christie,” she wrote in a diary entry dated May 17, 2013. “I thought he was honest. I thought he was moral. I thought he was something very different. This week I found out he’s cut from the same corrupt cloth that I have been fighting for the last four years.”
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak responded to the allegations in a statement: “Mayor Zimmer has been effusive in her public praise of the Governor’s Office and the assistance we’ve provided in terms of economic development and Sandy aid….What or who is driving her only now to say such outlandishly false things is anyone’s guess.”
The governor’s office released another statement late Saturday calling MSNBC a “partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him.” Spokesperson Colin Reed pointed out that Hoboken had been approved for nearly $70 million dollars in federal aid, and more is expected when Obama approves the next round of funding.
The lucrative Rockefeller development project would have received millions of dollars in tax incentives and was represented by lawyers with close ties to Christie.
Zimmer’s accusation only builds on the latest scandals to hit the governor and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate. Earlier this month, Christie aides were found to have closed lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge, possibly as political retribution for a small-town mayor in north Jersey who didn’t endorse Christie’s reelection bid. As a result, his administration is facing a federal probe as well as a state investigation for the incident. Separately, federal investigators are looking into whether Christie misused Hurricane Sandy funds to produce tourism ads.
MORE: Chris Christie Witholding Sandy Funds From Hoboken