Monday, January 13, 2014

This Bridge Scandal Is Just Starting!

Apparently it's about money - Big Money - but the exact connections are still murky. For reasons that are still unclear, Christie was trying to - and is still trying very hard to! - hold hostage the billion-dollar Hudson Lights project:
The Hudson Lights project is a billion dollar project because it offers unparalleled access to the George Washington Bridge. But take away that access and it’s no longer a billion dollar project.

...We know that because of its location, the long-term viability of this project could be threatened by any permanent changes to the GWB toll lanes that negatively impacted the on-ramp adjacent to the site.

...In other words, even though the permits were in place, the zoning approvals were done, the designs were finished, there was one last thing to lock down: the money.

...Moreover, the most crucial weeks that would decide whether this project would be capitalized are coincident with the weeks between when the traffic shut-down was ordered and when the traffic shut-down was lifted. It was only after Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye learned of Baroni and Wildstein’s shenanigans that the financing was finally sewn up. In fact, it was the very first business day after the lanes were re-opened that the developers announced they’d raised $218 million.

...I find it hard to believe that would-be investors in this project weren’t alarmed by the prospect that Port Authority officials had decided, without warning, to begin running experiments to see what would happen if local access to the GWB was temporarily, and then permanently, restricted. And in light of Mayor Sokolich’s first question to Chris Christie during their face-to-face meeting in Fort Lee this past week, asking the governor to promise not to exact revenge on Fort Lee for the trouble this scandal is causing, it seems even more significant that the governor was musing about making permanent changes in public during his December 2 press conference in Trenton. The cat was completely out of the bag on whether there had been a legitimate “traffic study,” and yet the governor persisted in characterizing the allocation of toll lanes as something that gave an unfair benefit to Fort Lee at the expense of the rest of the human race. Even in December, it seemed, Fort Lee and this project still faced a threat.

...I think that begins to get at what was going on here. We now know that a major redevelopment project, one that depends on Port Authority assets and relationships, was put in jeopardy at a vulnerable financial moment, and in a way that put the viability of the entire project at risk.

But we still don’t know why.

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