On MSNBC this morning, Steve Kornacki reported on allegations by Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer that the Christie administration withheld Sandy relief fund for her city -- 80% of which was flooded by the hurricane -- because the city was reluctant to approve a redevelopment project in a form that helped Christie allies:
... The deal, as envisioned in 2008, would have awarded the Rockefeller Group -- a New York developer -- the right to redevelop a stretch of Hoboken. The project would have been eligible for tax incentives and it would have given the Rockefeller Group a much freer hand to build whatever they wanted while asking for millions in subsidies....The city planning board voted against a redevelopment plan that didn;t include the non-Rockefeller block. And so Hoboken got shafted on Sandy aid:
On Dec. 28, 2010, the Port Authority approved a $75,000 grant for the study but there was a catch. The Port Authority alone would choose the firm that conducted the study. In February 2011, it selected Clarke Caton Hintz -- a reputable firm -– to carry out the redevelopment study.
... in January 2013, the firm -- which was tasked with evaluating a 19-block area -- concluded that only the three blocks in which the Rockefeller Group had an ownership stake were fit for redevelopment.
Zimmer's team was concerned. The landowners for the other 16 blocks were angry. They hired a lawyer who called the study "curious, disturbing and suspect to the say the least."
The Rockefeller Group had its own representation -- Wolff & Samson -- the most powerful, politically connected law firm in all of New Jersey. It's heavily involved in development deals and it's known for its close, intimate ties to the Christie administration. It is the firm of David Samson, the chairman of the Port Authority, the former attorney general of New Jersey, and a Christie appointee who's coming under increasing scrutiny in the Bridge-gate scandal.
The firm is also now the professional home of Lori Grifa, the former Christie aide who now lobbies on behalf of the Rockefeller Group....
Christie's people came back with less than 1% of what Hoboken had sought. With $250 million to disburse statewide, just $142,000 went to Hoboken -- enough to help defray the cost of one backup generator to power a flood pump. Out of another pool of money for recovery grants -- $1.8 billion in all -- Hoboken received $200,000.Kornacki's previous -- and, to me, highly persuasive -- scoop was the linking of the Fort Lee lane closures on the George Washington Bridge to another redevelopment project, in Fort Lee, which was struggling to get funding at the time of the closures, and which was premised in part on the selling point that Fort Lee offers easy access to New York City through the very bridge lanes that were closed.
As an Italian-American, I sometimes think it's simple-minded to compare every shady Italian guy to Vito Corleone or Tony Soprano. In this case, though, I give my blessing. The Christie mob clearly feels it has total control over New Jersey redevelopment -- you don't do it in a way that crosses the Christie mob's interests. You recognize that the Christie mob makes your redevelopment possible, and when the Christie mob asks for something in return, you owe. And woe to you if you don't pay up -- whether it's an endorsement for Christie's reelection or preferential treatment for Christie's pals.