Just as the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal was entering a quiet period, The New York Times reported Monday that the Manhattan district attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission are both looking into a $1.8 billion road repair deal tied to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The investigations, which are looking into possible securities law violations, are looking at a time period in 2010 and 2011 when the Christie administration was trying to get the Port Authority to pay for repairs related to the Pulaski Skyway — an elevated roadway that connects Newark and Jersey City. According to the Times, the investigations were prompted by the George Washington Bridge lane closures last year, and the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the SEC are cooperating with each other.
Earlier this month, The Bergen Record reported that the SEC was investigating the Port Authority in connection to the Skyway deal, after the newspaper found a disclosure tucked in one paragraph of a 228-page report the agency released to potential bond buyers.
Like the Times this week, the Record reported that the Christie administration pressured the Port Authority to find a legal justification for spending money on the repair projects. The agency did so by “casting the [Skyway] as an access road to the Lincoln Tunnel, even though they are not directly connected,” as the Times reported Monday, and has described the projects as “Lincoln Tunnel Access Infrastructure Improvements.” An anonymous source told the Times that the funds New Jersey saved by having the Port Authority pay for the projects were used to fill a state budget hole.
The Times suggested that a New York state law called the Martin Act — which makes it a felony to intentionally deceive bond holders, even without an intent to defraud — may be key to the investigation.
The Times report included many familiar characters for those who have followed the George Washington Bridge scandal, including former Port Authority executive Bill Baroni. Christie has pushed back on the suggestion that there was anything wrong with the Skyway deal.
“Dozens and dozens of lawyers from both sides of the river reviewed that financing plan and approved it,” Christie said at an April press conference, “as did the commissioners of the Port Authority.”