The George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal isn’t just about the bridge and the lanes anymore. While all the attention at first was focused on Fort Lee, N.J. Mayor Mark Sokolich — whose decision not to endorse Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) re-election last year was seen by some as the motivation for the traffic-jamming closures — in recent days a number of other New Jersey mayors have come forward with fresh allegations about actions taken by Christie’s administration. These mayors say they’ve gotten their own taste Christie retaliation:
Mark Sokolich, Fort Lee
He’s the mayor who started it all. Sokolich first suggested that political motives were behind the lane closures just days after “traffic problems” hit his town in September.
“I’ve asked the Port for an explanation, but they haven’t responded,” Sokolich told a local columnist in a piece published on Sept. 13. “I thought we had a good relationship. Now I’m beginning to wonder if there’s something I did wrong. Am I being sent some sort of message?”
Democrats in the state picked up Sokolich’s cue, and started pushing the story that the lane closures were retaliation for Sokolich’s decision to not endorse Christie’s re-election last year. Sokolich, meanwhile, stayed relatively quiet until the release of the “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” documents earlier this month. The mayor spent a few days giving interviews after the documents were released, and he met with Christie in person. Then he went quiet again. Sokolich’s office last week told TPM he would no longer be speaking publicly about the scandal.
Steve Fulop, Jersey City
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop made a cameo appearance in the subpoenaed documents released two weeks ago by state lawmakers.
“Radio silence […] His name comes right after mayor Fulop,” former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive David Wildstein emailed to former Christie aide Bridget Kelly on Sept. 9, the day the lane closures began, after Kelly apparently asked Wildstein if another Port Authority executive had called back Sokolich.
In a Jan. 12 Wall Street Journal story, Fulop tried to take a more prominent role in the scandal. He told the newspaper that he had been frozen out of meeting with state officials since his decision last year not to endorse Christie’s re-election.
Since then, Fulop said, “nearly every single meeting we have requested with state commissioners with regard to proactive Jersey City issues has been unfortunately rejected over the last six months, along with countless requests we made to the Port Authority.”
When he was asked about Fulop at a press conference two weeks ago, Christie acknowledged that they had disagreements but said “we’ve continued to work with Jersey City over the course of time since he’s been mayor,” according to the Journal.
Chris Bollwage, Elizabeth
Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage added to Christie’s issues on Thursday, when he spoke out about an incident he said took place in 2010, shortly after Christie first become governor. Bollwage told The Newark Star-Ledger newspaper that Christie closed a Motor Vehicle Commission office in Elizabeth in 2010 after Bollwage, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D), and Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D) opposed some of the new governor’s legislative efforts.
According to the Star-Ledger, Bollwage also said Elizabeth was “denied red-light cameras.”
A Christie spokesperson disputed the story, telling the newspaper that the Motor Vehicle Commission office was not political — and that the move had saved hundreds of thousands of tax dollars.
Dawn Zimmer, Hoboken
Over the weekend, the spotlight turned toward Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. She went public — really, really public — with allegations that top state officials had tried to get her to fast-track a proposed redevelopment project by withholding Hurricane Sandy relief aid.
The project is located on three blocks of land owned by a company who is a client of the law firm founded by Christie ally David Samson. Samson currently serves as chairman of the Port Authority, as CUNY history professor Brian Murphy explained in a post for TPM Cafe on Saturday.
On Sunday, Zimmer said that she had met with federal prosecutors to discuss her allegations about the redevelopment project.
“As they pursue this investigation, I will provide any requested information and testify under oath about the facts of what happened when the lieutenant governor came to Hoboken and told me that Sandy aid would be contingent on moving forward with a private development project,” Zimmer said in a statement, according to the Star-Ledger.
On Monday, Christie’s office held a conference call with reporters, during which an official argued that Hoboken received $70 million of $100 million in Sandy aid it requested — but most of that money went to citizens and businesses, not the city itself.