The case is solidifying: We now have even more reason to think that those now-infamous bridge lane closings occurred as a result of the Hudson Lights development deal
, and not as retaliation against a mayor who would not endorse Chris Christie.
The development project is a massive residential, retail and hotel development planned at the foot of the bridge. It consists of two parcels, Hudson Lights, which is being built by Tucker Development, and The Modern, a pair of residential towers proposed by Fort Lee Redevelopment Associates.
The development ran into a snag: What would the project do to traffic? Bill Baroni -- appointed by Christie to the Port Authority -- met with Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich to talk about ways to reduce traffic near the bridge. An expert hired by the developers said that the bridge would not be snarled if the project went through. But some on the planning board were unconvinced and felt that the project would cause huge problems.
So what are we to make of this? Did Christie's team (and/or Port Authority head David Samson) decide to scuttle the Hudson Lights deal? If so, why? Who is the target?
One Talking Points Memo reader has crafted a neat little theory which ties the bridge closure to that other
development deal we've discussed -- the one in Hoboken.
In that scandal, you will recall, Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer was seen as the impediment to a land development project involving property owned by the Rockefeller Group. That Group was represented (until very recently) by a powerful law firm founded by David Samson -- a Christie ally who became chairman of the Port Authority. Hurricane relief money was withheld from Hoboken, allegedly because Zimmer did not play ball with Samson.
Samson's law firm has been seeking the "redevelopment" status for the Rockefeller project i.e. get substantial tax breaks from the state of NJ. At the same time, the detailed planning for the real estate project in Fort Lee had already started including the GWB traffic study given the additional cars to the bridge with the real estate development in Fort Lee.
Money is a scarce resource. The state of NJ cannot give tax breaks to all real estate projects. BUT, looks like Christie team decided to put a stick in the wheel of Fort Lee real estate project by creating massive traffic problem SO that the project would be scuttled and therefore, Christie, with pressure on Hobokan mayor to approve the redevelopment status for the Rockefeller project, the Rockefeller project would have all the tax breaks.
Christie would not create such a high risk for himself in creating traffic in Fort Lee to spite a mayor of a small borough.
Follow the money.
I don't see any proof for this theory. But the narrative settles fairly well in the mind. I've suggested in the past that the two scandals may one day become "as one."
Of course, it's also possible that the developers in Fort Lee were being punished because they didn't contribute to Christie's campaign, or committed some similar "sin." (Thanks to a reader named Michael for much of this.)
In the meantime, we learn more about David Wildstein, who put the Christie scandals on a whole new footing when his lawyer said that "evidence exists" linking Christie to the bridge closures. Wildstein previously was a mysterious-but-influential blogger known only as Wally Edge. The NYT has published an interesting look
at Wildstein's Edge-y career.
It was an audacious move to start a politics website in 2000 — before blogs, long before websites like Politico. Mr. Wildstein started PoliticsNJ.com on his own, adopting the pen name Wally Edge, after a long dead New Jersey governor. After two years, he began to hire reporters without their knowing who he was.
It quickly became a must-read. One Democratic strategist recalled receiving an email from Wally Edge saying Gov. James E. McGreevey was about to announce he was gay and resign. He checked with other Democrats, who insisted it must be wrong, until they saw the governor on television 20 minutes later.
Mr. Wildstein, meanwhile, was working on occasional political campaigns. One Republican strategist recalled emailing Wally Edge while on the phone with Mr. Wildstein.
May I ask a small question...? Where did the money come from? There's no advertising
on that site. And we know that "Edge" paid other writers (such as Brian Murphy), even while maintaining his incognito.