Christie Aide Before GWB Closure: ‘Time for Some Traffic Problems in Fort Lee’

January 8, 2014 1:11 pm Last Updated: January 8, 2014 2:41 pm

NEW YORK—“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” wrote Bridget Anne Kelly, a top aide to Gov. Chris Christie in an Aug. 13 email to David Wildstein, an executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“Got it,” replied Wildstein, an ally of Christie, and the authority’s director of interstate capital projects.

Weeks later on Sept. 9, two approach lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge were closed, causing a week-long traffic jam. Commutes were delayed by hours and children were late to school for several days.

The emails, obtained through a subpoena by New Jersey State Assemblyman John Wisniewski, are the most powerful evidence suggesting that key staffers, allies, and appointees of Gov. Christie were involved the lane closures in order to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, for not supporting him Christie in the election for governor.

Sokolich, who initially denied that the lanes were closed as punishment, told the Wall Street Journal that he now believes otherwise.

“I’ve been punished not for something I’ve done, but for something I didn’t do,” Sokolich said. “This is the behavior of a bully in a schoolyard. It is the greatest example of political payback.”

After three days of traffic jams that paralyzed a swath of Fort Lee, the authority’s director, Patrick Foye, reacted with outrage in an email to staff, ordering the lanes reopened. Foye’s investigation of the matter at the time determined that vital entities, including the emergency dispatch and the borough’s government, were not informed of the closures in advance.

“I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a hospital- or hospice-bound patient delayed,” Foye wrote.

The emails show the reaction of officials as media reports about the closures suggest the possibility of a punitive measure from Christie. In early December, Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority. A week later, Bill Baroni, Christie top appointee at the Port Authority also resigned.

In one of the communications, someone sends a message with the text of a message from Sololich to Baroni, which relays complaints of traffic jams and children being kept from school.

“I feel bad about the kids,” the message reads.

“They are the children of Buono voters,” an unidentified person replies.

Barbara Buono was Christie’s Democratic opponent in the election for governor.