Dawn Zimmer: Hoboken mayor says Chris Christie office tied Hoboken hurricane relief funds to development project.

New Jersey Mayor Claims Christie Office Extorted Her Over Hurricane Relief Funds

New Jersey Mayor Claims Christie Office Extorted Her Over Hurricane Relief Funds

The Slatest
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Jan. 18 2014 12:58 PM

New Jersey Mayor Claims Christie Office Demanded Approval of a Development Project for Hurricane Funds

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A picture depicting when things were much friendlier between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Mayor Dawn Zimmer on November 4, 2012. Six months later Zimmer wrote in her diary that she had recently discovered Christie is "cut from the same corrupt cloth that I have been fighting for the last four years”

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

A New Jersey mayor is engulfing Governor Chris Christie in further controversy Saturday, claiming two top officials in his office threatened the state would withhold hurricane relief funds unless she moved forward with a development project that the governor was interested in seeing green-lighted quickly. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer shared emails and personal notes with MSNBC to back up her claims. The basic numbers at the very least raise some eyebrows. Zimmer asked for $127 million in relief funds for Hoboken, 80 percent of which was underwater after Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012, but has received less than $400,000. Zimmer hasn’t approved the project. Last week, Zimmer went on WNYC and wondered whether Christie did not provide the funds because she refused to endorse his reelection. These claims come at a time when Christie is already in the line of fire after documents revealed members of his office were involved in what appears to have been a politically motivated closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge.

Zimmer specifically points to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Christie’s community affairs commissioner, Richard Constable, as the ones who made the threats. In one of the most explosive claims, Zimmer says Guadagno straight out told her that the hurricane funds and the redevelopment project were connected. “The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward or we are not going to be able to help you,” Guadagno reportedly told Zimmer on May 13, according to a diary entry. “I know it’s not right—these things should not be connected—but they are, she says, and if you tell anyone, I will deny it.” Four days later, it was reportedly Constable who delivered the message. “Everyone in the State House believes you are against it—the buzz is that you are against it,” Constable reportedly said. “If you move that forward, the money would start flowing to you.”

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Constable and Christie both denied the allegations through their spokespersons. Zimmer “has been effusive in her public praise of the Governor’s Office and the assistance we’ve provided in terms of economic development and Sandy aid,” Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said in a statement.  “What or who is driving her only now to say such outlandishly false things is anyone’s guess.” When MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki asks her about that praise and why she had waited to speak up, Zimmer recognizes she maybe should have “come forward” earlier.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.