TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie helped direct federal Superstorm Sandy aid to a long-planned housing project in a community not hit hard by the storm just before the town’s mayor endorsed him for re-election, according to a published report.
The Republican governor was on hand in May to announce the state was contributing $6 million in Sandy aid to an $18 million senior center and housing complex in Belleville, saying he personally pushed for the project. Bellville’s Democratic mayor, Raymond Kimble, announced two weeks later that he was endorsing Christie, The Star-Ledger of Newark (http://bit.ly/1fmFlxZ ) reported.
Christie’s use of Sandy aid money is drawing more scrutiny following allegations that his staff ordered lanes closed at the George Washington Bridge last fall to create traffic jams in Fort Lee as retribution against the town’s Democratic mayor and that cabinet officials told the mayor of Hoboken that her city would get more storm recovery money if she supported a real estate development plan favored by the administration. The governor denied any knowledge of the apparent bridge plot and has cut ties with staffers and appointees over it. His office has denied the Hoboken allegations.
Christie has tried to build a reputation as a pragmatic governor willing to work with Democrats. His campaign emphasized several major pieces of bipartisan legislation and the four-dozen Democratic officials who endorsed him.
Kimble, the mayor of Belleville, told The Star-Ledger his endorsement had nothing to do with Christie’s releasing the funds and noted that it was the developer of Franklin Manor, not the town, that applied for the money.
The Christie administration says the project could provide homes in relatively short order for some displaced by the October 2012 storm and that it scored well on criteria used to judge funding requests. It said about 20 similar projects were also funded with federal money that the state controlled.
“You’ve got to find shovel-ready opportunities in the individual counties that can be built in real time, because otherwise these folks are twisting in the wind,” said Marc Ferzan, who is in charge of Sandy recovery projects for Christie.
Information from: The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, http://www.nj.com