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Hoboken Mayor Says Christie Administration Held Sandy Aid 'Hostage'

The mayor of Hoboken, N.J., says the administration of Gov. Chris Christie told her if she did not back a local development deal, her city would not receive the aid she asked for to rebuild after Super Storm Sandy.

Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat, made the comments about the Republican administration in an interview with MSNBC on Saturday.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak told the network her comments were "outlandishly false." The agency responsible for distributing the aid told The Star Ledger Zimmer's allegations were "categorically false."

Zimmer, who was a one-time Christie supporter, alleges Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie's community affairs commissioner, both gave her that message in person.

Zimmer produced what she said were contemporaneous diary entries in which she wrote about the exchanges.

"At the end of a big tour of ShopRite and meeting, [Guadagno] pulls me aside with no one else around and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project," Zimmer wrote in one. "It is very important to the governor. 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. 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."

Of course, Christie is currently embroiled in another scandal. His administration ordered the closing of some lanes to the George Washington Bridge in what's been revealed to be a political vendetta against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.

It's worth noting that after the George Washington Bridge scandal erupted, Zimmer talked to NPR member station WNYC. She said the scandal got her wondering if Christie was using Sandy aid to get revenge, because she did not endorse him in his bid for governor.

In that Jan. 10 interview, however, she did not mention the development nor her meetings with Christie officials.

Zimmer says she asked the state for $100 million in aid. She received around $142,000.

It's also worth noting that Christie's camp says Hoboken has been approved for $70 million with more potentially on the way. Zimmer's allegations concern a hazard mitigation fund, or another bucket of money.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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