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Washington Heights Officials Want Probe Into Effect Of GWB Lane Closures

George Washington Bridge (file/credit: CBS 2)

George Washington Bridge (file/credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Some upper Manhattan officials have called for greater oversight in response to the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal.

Two of three approach lanes to the span in Fort Lee, N.J. were closed over four days starting Sept. 9.

Emails made public on Wednesday indicated one of Gov. Chris Christie’s top aides was involved in the lane closures in what appeared to be some type of political retribution against the town’s mayor.

On Thursday, Christie announced he’d fired the aide and apologized for the lane closures. He added he was unaware of the back-and-forth and the political push behind the lane closures until the emails were published Wednesday.

Christie’s deputy chief of staff was involved in conversations with two of the governor’s top appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge.

WEB EXTRA: Read The Emails

New York State Sen. Adriano Espaillat called on his colleagues to look into the lane closures back in Nov. when details of the scandal first began to emerge.

“The Port Authority remains a bi-state state agency, tasked with managing critical infrastructure on both sides of the Hudson. While these reckless actions were committed exclusively by New Jersey political appointees, New Yorkers’ stake in the effective governance of the Port Authority is beyond question,” Espaillat said in a statement.

He noted his constituents rely on the GWB and added traffic on the span can spill over onto local roads.

“The unique and archaic delineation of responsibilities between New York and New Jersey appointees at the Port Authority clearly contributed to this incident, and enabled partisan operatives to conceal their actions. This system needs urgent reform: authority employees cannot be allowed to operate in state-based silos any longer. The agency’s Executive Director, who I have commended for swiftly ending this abuse of power, must be given greater operational control over departments currently working with relative autonomy from his office,” Espaillat’s statement went on.

The lawmaker said failing to look into the impact of the lane closures would be an opportunity missed.

“When traffic issues arise on the George Washington Bridge, it often creates spillover into the Northern Manhattan community, crippling our streets. This prevents our emergency services from operating in the timely fashion necessary to save lives; it adds greater pollution and noise pollution to the Northern Manhattan area and puts motorists and pedestrians at greater risk of accidents,” New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez added.

He said Christie owes Washington Heights residents an apology for the gridlock caused on the New York side of the bridge.

“The Port Authority’s unusual status as an interstate agency means this is not just a New Jersey matter. It is time for the New York legislature to take a closer look at the structural breakdown that allowed the most traversed bridge in the world, and the most iconic entryway to our city, to be misused in this ostentatious flex of political muscle,” New York State Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa said.

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