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Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer: Christie Administration Dodging Question About Sandy Aid

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HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer defended herself and dug in deeper Sunday with her accusation that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration withheld superstorm Sandy aid in a bid to force her to approve a redevelopment project.

A day earlier on MSNBC, Zimmer said that she was pulled aside in May 2013 by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadango, who allegedly told the mayor she needed to move forward with the project or the city would not receive Sandy relief money.

CNN’s Candy Crowley pressed Zimmer on Sunday about why she waited until now to come forward. The Christie administration is already entrenched in another scandal after Christie aides ordered the closure of the George Washington Bridge in September, possibly as political payback for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich refusing to endorse Christie’s re-election bid. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop has since come forward to say he suspects the Christie administration canceled meetings with him because he chose, too, not to endorse the governor.

“Back in May, when the lieutenant governor came and very directly said to me that these two things are connected, I didn’t think anyone would believe me,” Zimmer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I really didn’t. Looking back, I probably should have come forward. But I really didn’t think anyone would believe me, and quite frankly, if I came forward (and) no one believes me, then I’m going to put Hoboken in even worse position.

“As I watched the coverage with Bridgegate, you do see parallels, and I just felt I had an obligation to come forward.”

Zimmer was also questioned about her voicing support of Christie after May, even in tweeting in August, “I am very glad Governor Christie has been our (governor).”

“I had to basically almost set aside what (Guadango) said to me because it is unbelievable, but it’s true,” Zimmer said before reiterating she feared that Hoboken could be excluded from Sandy funding at the time.

Speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” New Jersey Assemblyman and Chairman for the Select Committee on Investigations John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, said Zimmer’s story “raises serious allegations.” Wisniewski’s panel is already investigating the George Washington Bridge incident.

“We don’t know where it goes,” Wisniewski said. “We don’t know if there’s more to it. But I think it’s something the committee has to consider as part of the overall investigation.”

Hoboken City Councilman Michael Russo said Saturday he wants the City Council to investigate and get a closer look at any documents that Zimmer may have, Schneider reported.

Zimmer has released excerpts from her journal about the alleged shakedown. In one entry, she wrote: “I thought (Christie) was honest. I thought he was moral. I thought he was something very different. This week, I found out he’s cut from the same corrupt cloth that I’ve been fighting for the last four years. I am so disappointed. It literally brings tears to my eyes.”

Crowley asked Zimmer if there was anything that tied Christie directly to the Guadango’s alleged comments.

“The lieutenant governor pulled me aside and she said essentially, you’ve got to move forward with the Rockefeller project,” Zimmer said. “This project is really important to the governor. And she said she had been with him on Friday night, and that this was a direct message from the governor.”

The development in question is a 19-block area on the north side of Hoboken.

The Rockefeller group owns three blocks on the site and is represented by the law firm of Port Authority Chairman David Sampson.

Zimmer said that Hoboken has only received $300,000 to repair and develop the city since the October 2012 storm. The rest of the requested $100 million remains in limbo, while she still hasn’t approved the project, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.

Christie’s office released a statement calling MSNBC “a partisan network” that has been openly hostile to the governor and “almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him.” According to the statement, Hoboken has been approved for $70 million in funding and is targeted to receive even more when the Obama administration approves the next rounds of funding.

The Christie administration also mentioned Zimmer’s tweet praising the governor.

“The bottom line is the Christie administration’s response is one deflection,” Zimmer said Sunday. “The major question is, did they connect Hoboken Sandy funding to the Rockefeller project? The fact is that is what they did.

“I’m coming forward. I’m sharing my story directly. … I’m sharing my journal. I’m offering to testify under oath. What are they doing? They’re hiding behind spokespeople.”

On Sunday, Mayor Zimmer released a statement indicating that she had met with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark and turned over a journal and other documents.

“This afternoon I met with the U.S. Attorney’s office for several hours at their request and provided them with my journal and other documents. 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,” she said in a statement.

However, Gov. Christie is not without his defenders, CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported.

“Clearly this is a very, very well orchestrated Democratic kind of onslaught. Kind of an organizational effort to try to hurt Governor Christie,” Rudy Giuliani said.

Giuliani also called on Assemblyman Wisniewski to step down from the investigation.

A Democratic spokesperson responded to Giuliani and said that Wisniewski has strong bi-partisan support.

Calls by CBS 2 to Gov. Christie’s office have not yet been returned.

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