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Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) answers a question during a news briefing at the 2013 Republican Governors Association conference in Scottsdale, Arizona November 21, 2013.  REUTERS/Samantha Sais (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX15NG1
This is an interesting tidbit from The Bergen Record about the real estate project at the center of Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer's allegation that the Christie administration had linked Hurricane Sandy relief funding to her approval of the project:
A planning report heavily favored the politically connected builder of a proposed $1.1 billion development that is at the center of a dispute between the governor’s office and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. The mayor alleges that the Christie administration withheld Sandy recovery money from her city because she did not favor fast-tracking the massive project.

Of the 10 industrial and commercial properties that the report recommended for redevelopment, nine were owned by a subsidiary of The Rockefeller Group, records show.

The Rockefeller Group is represented by the law firm of David Samson, a close Christie adviser whom Christie appointed as chairman of the Port Authority, which paid for the planning study.

Obviously, the mere fact that the Port Authority favored the development project doesn't prove or disprove Zimmer's allegation about Sandy relief aid being tied to her approval of the project, but it does illustrate that the Christie administration was supportive of the development. It also shows the Port Authority at the center of a political sensitive decision, one in which Christie's choice for Port Authority chairman had a stake.

At this point, one of the key unanswered questions is whether or not Hoboken was denied Sandy recovery aid because of Zimmer's position on the project. The Christie administration has defended itself by pointing to the fact that Hoboken received a fair share of direct payments to individuals, but as Kevin Drum points out, Zimmer's allegation was that Hoboken was denied a fair share of resources from a $290 million flood mitigation fund.

Again, the Christie administration's deflection doesn't conclusively prove anything one way or the other—but instead of clearing smoke from the room, it adds to it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What supports it (12+ / 0-)

    is that is it so manifestly consistent with Christie's character, custom and culture.

    I have a theory that Christie is governor because  he resembles Tony Soprano.  But while Tony seemed somewhat cool on a TV show, when it comes to harming ordinary folks in reality, his type is not so cool.

    "So listen, oh, Don't wait." Vampire Weekend.

    by Publius2008 on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 03:35:47 PM PST

  •  The Port Authority Study (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stagemom, Eric Nelson, La Gitane, LNK

    you are talking about is NOT the infamous Port Authority traffic study of the bridge. This is another study, related to the Zimmer allegation only. I thought from your title that the two scandals were interrelated.

  •  Facts, laws, and tables (13+ / 0-)

    "If the facts are on your side, pound the facts.  If the law is on your side, pound the law.  If neither is on your side, pound the table."  I'ld say that claims to the effect that Hoboken got its share of the monies distributed by the Federal Government is pounding the table, and by inference, an admission that Christie has got nothing to defend himself from the accusation.

  •  Want to know if the PA was involved? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    orestes1963, chuckvw, Librarianmom

    Simple - look at the political contributions of the Rockefeller Group and it's subsidiaries.

    If they paid off both Christie and Cuomo, there's a good chance PA appointees were be pressured by their respective governors to push this project.

    Why do I say this?  Because Cuomo takes just as much graft from Real Estate developers as any other governor.  Which makes sense, as he's a typical 3rd Way Corruptocrat, and not an honest liberal Democrat.

    •  can't prove b/c biz in gen'l always gives to both (0+ / 0-)

      sides in an election.
      it'd be in their personal contributions, not in the corps donations.

      I am tired of laughing at the irony of their stupidity.

      by stagemom on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 03:45:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Is it "proof"? (0+ / 0-)

        No.  It's not definitive proof.

        But you know what they say about "following the money" when it comes to politics, right?

        Do you really think anyone would have donated to Carl Paladino?  The whole "both sides" thing really doesn't apply here.  Cuomo was up against a clown-car candidate, and as of yet, still has no announced challenger for this fall.

    •  Kornacki's Up from Saturday (14+ / 0-)

      explains the links with Port Authority very clearly. To summarize, the mayor was approached about zoning variance for north area of town. When she said she couldn't do anything without a study, Christie people put her in touch with Samson at Port Authority. Port Authority provided money for the study.

      When the study came through it proposed special treatment ONLY for the Rockefeller owned properties, leaving out other parts of the north area and other owners.

      The city council decided not to go with the proposal because they would have been subject to opposition from nearby owners.

      That's when Christie admin put the screws to her and had several contacts that suggested she get approval of the Rockefeller rezoning in order to get the Sandy funds.

      Samson's fingerprints are all over this. He got the funding for Hoboken study, his law firm represents the Rockefellers, and his people were putting pressure on the mayor.

      Anyone desiring to understand the details of the real estate shakedown should take a look at the Kornacki interview with Zimmer, and his explanations of the backstory.

      Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

      by coral on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:36:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  To visually paraphrase our own brilliant (8+ / 0-)


  •  christie in speech today: (13+ / 0-)
    Today, I thank all those who have once again placed their faith and trust in me and I make this promise: I will not let up, I will insist we work together and I will make this government truly work for those who pay for it.
    really, christie, you're gonna say that outloud, at your inauguration?

    i will die from irony...

    I am tired of laughing at the irony of their stupidity.

    by stagemom on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 03:43:58 PM PST

    •  That stopped me too, Christie is on his donor tour (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, royce, stagemom, Fury, StrayCat

      ..with his hand out (Florida recently). I've heard pundits both right and left surmising that this latest scandal could damage those efforts turning away some of the 1%er crowd not willing to put money behind a loser, at least until these allegations are behind him..or not, they may keep coming with all the subpoenas.

      That and another northeasterner as the republicans candidate? How does that work with the south and or the fundie's in the GOP.

      So when Christie said: ..  I will make this government truly work for those who pay for it." Wow. That's supposed to reassurance big money donors?

  •  Christie used the PA as the enforcement hammer... (8+ / 0-) can't get much clearer. He created a job for an attack dog, and set the attack dog loose, and now pleads ignorance when a spate of biting incidents occurs.

    it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses

    by Addison on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 03:51:08 PM PST

  •  Why is the Port Authority (10+ / 0-)

    conducting such a study in the first place?  We pay outrageous tolls and they fritter away money on this shit?

    •  Christie administration proposed (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      La Gitane, royce, StrayCat

      PA funding for study to Mayor Zimmer, and Samson got it for her. Meanwhile, Samson's law firm represented developer who wanted redevelopment zoning to qualify for special treatment and tax breaks.

      Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

      by coral on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:38:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I believe it is more accurate to say (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      La Gitane, Eric Nelson, Cardinal Fang

      that the PA provided grant funding to the City of Hoboken to conduct a redevelopment study and as a condition of receiving the grant, a particular firm would need to be used in order to conduct the study.  The firm picked to do the study was Clarke Caton Hintz which was known to be a reputable firm.  What was interesting was that Clarke Caton Hintz came back to the City with a recommendation to develop an area that was virtually identical to the land owned by the Rockefeller Group.  I only know this because Steve Kornacki reported this meticulously on his Sat 1/18/14 show.  If you really want the details, you should watch clip #19 at the site for Steve's show:

      To understand the details, it is worth your time to watch this clip.

      •  I would be interested to know (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        who the firm contracted with - the city or the PA.  If it was the PA, as the client they could have told the firm anything they wanted to to sway their conclusions.

        If the city was the client, then the firm might be at fault, unless they can adequately justify their determinations.

        But when the city hired a different firm to review the previous study, they determined that none of the property in question would be eligible for redevelopment designation - only rehabilitation, which comes with a much smaller goodie-bag.

        "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

        by La Gitane on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:49:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I can't figure out from the Kornacki clip (4+ / 0-)

          whether Clarke Caton Hintz was technically hired by the PA or by the City.  But Kornacki's report does say that when the report came back, other owners of land parcels that make up the entire north end area that was being studied (16 blocks out of a total of 19 blocks), were baffled about why only certain parcels were recommended for redevelopment rather than the less lucrative rehabilitation designation.  The remaining 16 block owners hired a lawyer who called the Clarke Caton Hintz study results, "curious, disturbing, and suspect to say the least."  According to Kornacki (who admits he is not a development expert), the entire 19 block area looks very similar and it is hard to figure out why only 3 blocks were singled out for redevelopment.  

      •  That still doesn't change the fact that the PA (0+ / 0-)

        should not be engaged in this activity in the first place.  I did see the Carnacki show, but it didn't answer the threshold question why the PA is involved in this kind of work in Hoboken.

  •  And isn't it inherently a conflict of interest to (10+ / 0-)

    ... have the Port Authority direct which company was tasked with the study given the project's possible connection to the Chairman of the Port Authority?

    "Bob Johnson doesn't have special privileges, because really, why would I entrust that guy with ANYTHING?" - kos, November 9, 2013

    by Bob Johnson on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 03:58:02 PM PST

  •  Did anyone else watch Mayor Zimmer on the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bluebelle7, Librarianmom, Eric Nelson

    Kornacki show? The way I understood what she said, Samson got the Port Authority to pay for the feasibility study for the portion of the undeveloped land owned by the Rockefeller Group. The rest of the property is owned by someone else, and has not had a feasibility study. Mayor Zimmer said she couldn't approve just the Rockefeller portion because it wouldn't be fair to the other owner. Did anyone else understand it that way? Certainly the Bergen Record knows better than I, but I'm now very confused.

    •  Preferential treatment it the issue (10+ / 0-)

      The issue is that the Rockefeller Group wants access to certain types of public incentives that are only available if the property is declared a redevelopment zone.

      The firm that the Port Authority paid to do the study looked at the entire north end of Hoboken (which from what I can gather is largely made up of abandoned/decaying industrial/commercial properties) and determined that the only properties eligible for redevelopment status (and the associated public incentives) were the properties owned by the Rockefeller Group.

      The Hoboken planning commission rejected the consultant's recommendation because its findings were blatantly slanted to benefit the Rockefeller Group while excluding other owners of north end properties.  (You'll note how Mayor Zimmer keeps referring to the need to be fair to the other property owners.)

      What this really comes down to is Sandy money being used to leverage corporate welfare dollars for a politically connected developer.

      Btw, I'm a native New Jerseyite watching the developments in my home state with fascination.

    •  No, the feasibility study was for a large section (5+ / 0-)

      only a part of which was owned by Rockefeller group. The study came back recommending special treatment ONLY for the Rockefeller-owned portion of the area under study.

      Samson is the key here. His law firm represented Rockefeller, he arranged for funding of study and for the firm that would do it.

      Interesting that they recommended special favor only for his client, Rockefeller, not the rest of the area also included in the study.

      It was a carve-out favorable to Samson's client.

      Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

      by coral on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:42:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Holy Broken City! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coral, La Gitane, royce

    I watched Broken City with Marky Mark and Russel Crowe the other night - this is nearly exactly the plot line of the movie.

    Rich backer gets mayor to pulls strings for massive real estate development.

    the movie was a 4, but the real story rates a 6 at least.

  •  Why does the PA have anything to say about Hoboken (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    La Gitane, royce

    in the first place? Why would they be doing studies of Hoboken?

    Just askin.....

    I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

    by JML9999 on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:11:28 PM PST

    •  The PA has large budget & they were requested to (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, royce, JML9999

      Fund the feasibility study if they could pick who did the study. Since Samson's law firm represented this group who wants 3 blocks of land re-developed, this is where there is a conflict of interest.

      Don't know whether the "study group" was biased or bought off or the study is valid. The people who own most of the land were Angry that their land didn't qualify.

      Also, the PA has a big footprint in Hoboken

      nosotros no somos estúpidos

      by a2nite on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:31:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  according to Steve Kornacki's reporting on (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ahumbleopinion, bobatkinson, JML9999

        Up w/Steve on Sat 1/18/14, the study firm was known to be a reputable firm but it is mighty stinky that first, the Rockefeller Group released a statement saying that they were moving ahead with plans for redevelopment and THEN Mayor Zimmer released a statement saying that her administration was not in negotiations with the Rockefeller Group and wouldn't be negotiating with anybody until a study could be conducted and THEN Gov Christie's Dir of Community Affairs went to the PA and facilitated a grant for a study conditioned on using a particular firm and THEN by the time the study was done, the Dir of Community Affairs had left the Christie and joined Wolff & Samson and was serving as a lobbyist for the Rockefeller Group and THEN the study came back with a recommendation that the parcels of land that should be redeveloped were virtually the same as the parcels owned by the Rockefeller Group.  I'm sorry but this is just stinky.

    •  Samson-Christie connection (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      La Gitane, royce, a2nite, JML9999

      that's why.

      Money talks, nobody walks.

      Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

      by coral on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:43:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Slush fund (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, JML9999

      They have money, and they are a local development authority.

      Thus the reason why both NY and NJ have upped their game when it comes to putting players on the board.  Apparently a lot has changed in the past 20-30 years.

      "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

      by La Gitane on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:52:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Who Was On The Planning Report? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, royce, Eric Nelson, bobatkinson

    Zimmer said that the planning committee only wanted to develop the Rockefeller property and did not consider other property around it.  I think that there were other property owners who wanted to develop their land too.  Zimmer said she had a hard time with the plans of only developing the Rockefeller property and saying no to all the other property owners who were left out in the cold.  Obviously something crooked was going on when the study only included the Rockefeller property for development.

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:11:41 PM PST

    •  No the planning committe disapproved of (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, La Gitane, bobatkinson

      the PA-funded study that only recommended Rockefeller portion for redevelopment tax breaks.

      The planning committe wanted to include more of the area, and were unsure about things like transportation, traffic, etc.

      You people have to watch the Kornacki episodes from Saturday, Jan 18.

      Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

      by coral on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:44:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here is the 24:35 minute version from January 18 (2+ / 0-)

        (short ad - sorry)
        transcript @ link & the next video with Mayor Zimmer:

        The next video clip is the interview with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and can be viewed by clicking on the link above.
         After the short ad a list will appear on the left showing the now playing video as the one just viewed.  (sometimes you have to scroll down a bit to find the listing of the ‘now playing’ video)
        Directly below will be a video labeled 'next'. That is the Interview with Mayor Zimmer video and the next is below that and so on..
        That was Saturday's report videos.
        This is a link to Sunday's 'Up' with Steve Kornacki (Sunday January 19, 2014) where he continues his coverage of New Jersey politics with more examination of corruption surrounding and within the Christie administration.

        The video selections are on the left of the page and to get more from January 19th hover over MSNBC on the left and choose 'UP'. That should load the current videos for viewing or choose any that suits you..(hope that makes sense)

  •  It will all come out in the wash.... (0+ / 0-)

    I think the operative here is that the Sandy money was meant for the citizens and small business owners who needed funds to rebuild, to relocate, to survive, and they needed it  in a timely fashion.

    Whether or not this was a favorable project it had no business being "fast tracked," ahead of what the funds were meant for in the first place.

  •  Clarification, Jed. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Librarianmom, La Gitane, royce

    The Port Authority did not undertake this report itself. But, according to the mayor (and a point not disputed by anyone from the Christie administration or at the Port Authority), the PA picked the firm to conduct the study and paid for it ($75k).

    As the Bergen Record story (your link) points out:

    The Port Authority approved $75,000 to fund the study in late 2010 and chose the Trenton-based planning and architecture firm Clarke Caton Hintz to perform the work. Samson was chairman of the authority at the time.

    "Bob Johnson doesn't have special privileges, because really, why would I entrust that guy with ANYTHING?" - kos, November 9, 2013

    by Bob Johnson on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:27:03 PM PST

    •  Which makes me think the Feds will subpeona (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      La Gitane, royce, bobatkinson

      ... any communications between Clarke Caton Hintz and PA officials.

      "Bob Johnson doesn't have special privileges, because really, why would I entrust that guy with ANYTHING?" - kos, November 9, 2013

      by Bob Johnson on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:29:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would think so (0+ / 0-)

        It's important to know who the firm contracted with - the PA or the City.

        If the PA was the client, the PA could tell them anything they want and there will be little to prove.  They were just serving their client.  But, if their client was the city, and they were taking directives from a third party affecting their objectivity and skewing the results of a study they were paid to do, that's a little different.  Breach of contract (civil) or maybe even fraud....

        "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

        by La Gitane on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 04:57:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, the firm was handpicked by someone at the PA. (4+ / 0-)

          And the firm was paid by the PA. The Chairman of the PA had a financial interest in the company that owned the property that the report suggested should be approved for development by the city.

          "Bob Johnson doesn't have special privileges, because really, why would I entrust that guy with ANYTHING?" - kos, November 9, 2013

          by Bob Johnson on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 05:02:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah I get that (0+ / 0-)

            But that still doesn't mean that they signed a contract with the PA. Doesn't matter who chose them or who paid them; what matters is who they signed the contract with. That is their client.

            "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

            by La Gitane on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 12:48:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Port Authority funded the study & chose consultant (5+ / 0-)
    The Port Authority approved $75,000 to fund the study in late 2010 and chose the Trenton-based planning and architecture firm Clarke Caton Hintz to perform the work. Samson was chairman of the authority at the time.
    I wonder if it's normal for the Port Authority to fund studies like this for municipalities. I think this is even more damning in showing the tentacles of the Christie Administration.
  •  OT, Factoid about Port Authority of NY and NJ (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Has long been a law unto itself. Verrrry 'special' and not normal.

    An insider told me that the Port Authority was able to bypass NYC laws when the original WTC was built. The fire rating on some walls were not up to normal NYC code. If I remember correctly, though, in one case it worked in favor of people trapped in an elevator on 9/11 because the wall was easier to break through.

    But my eyes certainly widened when I was told they were permitted to build to a lower standard...because they are this special entity. After The Triangle Fire and NYC's great efforts about fire prevention one would think all entities--especially in Lower Manhattan-- would have to comply with higher standards.

    My personal/profession experience decades ago with Port Authority heads was another eye opener. Throw-backs.

  •  Christie tactics - under-reported point (5+ / 0-)

    Former candidate for NJ Gov, Barbara Buono said on Rachel Maddow Show that many, many people told her they wanted to donate to her campaign but could only give a limited amount because if they feared reprisals from Christie (and his people) if their donation was high enough to require being reporting!

    They didn't just fear  social snubs--they had bigger fears.

    I wish this point was emphasized.
    Subverting democracy.
    All the more reason for separating money from elections!

    And how about Christie spending extra state money to  hold separate elections for US Senate seat and his own election? Disadvantage to Buono.

    Christie and Buono and money even before current Christie scandas reveals some slimy business:

  •  Hazardous mitigation grants aren't base on fair... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    share as a % of the population.  They are based on a cost/benefit analysis.  Where will the money do the most good?  in a flooding situation, a city on the hill isn't going to get the same amount per capita as a city in a valley.

  •  Time for a federal investigation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Back In Blue

    Of the Port Authority.

    Living is easy with eyes closed...

    by skybluewater on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 06:31:23 PM PST

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