Tag Archive: richard constable

The abrupt shuttering of the Izod Center: A travesty

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) yesterday in a Blue Jersey post, Transparency & The NJSE, raised six important questions about the abrupt closure of the Meadowlands Izod Center Arena. She has good reason for her concerns. She is seeking answers and is known for her persistence and success.  

As the Star-Ledger reported on January 15, “With little warning and no public notice, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority voted this afternoon to shut down the Meadowlands Izod Arena by the end of the month and shift the remaining few events on its schedule to the Prudential Center in Newark. Officials said the Izod Center’s continuing losses left them no choice. In its agreement with Prudential, the state will keep the arena dark for at least two years, receiving $2 million in compensation for the added events.”

This action, taken with no documetation as to its need, hurts Bergen County which loses jobs, tax revenue and  local business income, as well as a near-by entertainment venue. However, there are significant advantages for other groups. A confluence of special interests and the governor appear to be at the root of this travesty.

Steve Kornacki asks Matt Doherty a direct question. Does he answer it?

First rule of projecting your own credibility in a TV interview: If you’re asked a direct question, give a direct answer. Does Matt Doherty do that here? He’s asked whether Chris Christie’s self-exonerating report (by lawyer Randy Mastro) correctly portrays him overhearing a conversation between Hoboken’s mayor Dawn Zimmer and DCA chair Richard Constable, and hearing no promise of Sandy aid in exchange for Zimmer greenlighting Christie-favored development. Does Doherty answer Kornacki’s direct question with a direct answer?  

Sandy Recovery Funding: Will the Second Time Be a Charm?

The Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Action Plan in its 7th substantial amendment has been undergoing considerable scrutiny. If approved by HUD it will set the rules for the disbursement of the next $1.46 billion in federal Sandy recovery funds. Things did not go well with the initial allocation of $1.8 billion in 2013. This round there have been robust public comments, criticism and anger. Maybe Sandy Czar Marc Ferzan and Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable, who administers the program, will get it right this time.

There have been allegations that the 1st round funding was used to help Christie get re-elected. In addition, Fair Share Housing Center criticized it for “an overall lack of organization and planning and raising questions about the fairness of distribution of funds being too favorable toward home owners as opposed to renters.” During Christie’s “Town Halls” recently he has seen protesters and received more than earful of complaints about delays, paperwork, and vague waiting lists. An unresponsive contractor, HGI, which was paid exceedingly well, botched its job, and ended up with its contract quietly terminated for reasons that suggested both the DCA and HGI were at fault.

What’s Happening Today Tue. 02/11/2014

Yesterday The Select Committee Investigation Panel in a very business-like, rapid-fire fashion returned from a closed session and quickly voted on motions to take all necessary steps to enforce the subpoenas for documents which Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly have failed to produce. The four Republicans abstained, saying they did not have enough time to consider the matter. The eight Democrats voted Yes. Co-Chair Sen. Weinberg then gaveled the hearing closed.

The meeting stood adjourned with inquiring minds learning little that was new. Later it was announced that 18 subpoenas are being issued. Included is a subpoena for the logs of Christie’s use of the State Police helicopters. There have been unconfirmed reports he may have used a helicopter to view the traffic disruption during the Fort lee lane closures. It was at its worst in the mornings.

Chris Christie visits Chicago today. Will he be thinking about former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who is currently in prison, the needs of the Republican Governors Association or the serious problems back home? The Chicago Sun Times reports the four Republican gubernatorial candidates competing in Illinois have no plans to join Christie at the fundraising events. One event open to the press is at the Economic Club of Chicago. As with similar Christie trips to Florida and Texas, the Democratic National Committee is planning a press conference attempting to link Illinois Republicans to the New Jersey bridge scandal. How long can Christie continue this gig if the Republican candidates for governor whom he is supposed to help don’t want to meet him?

Meanwhile back in NJ today: a rally in Fort Lee, ELEC and an oversight committee meetings in Trenton, and a Sandy Block Grant public hearing at Richard Stockton College – below the fold.

What’s Happening Today Tue. 02/04/2014

More evidence piles up that our fleece-clad super hero of Sandy may have fleeced (or over-rewarded) a number of Sandy-damaged towns and people for political reasons, discriminated against Latino and African-American applicants and renters, received large contributions from contractors through the RGA, and mishired and then had to fire a major Sandy housing contractor which had contributed to the RGA. And let’s not forget the no-bid, over-priced AshBritt debris removal firm whose lobbyist held a $3,800 per person fundraiser for Christie, with AshBritt later forced to return some of the money it overcharged municipalities.  

A shadowy figure behind Christie’s Sandy recovery program is “Czar” Marc Ferzan, who (unsurprisingly) used to work for Christie in the U. S. Attorney’s Office. Ferzan is a  powerful senior Christie staff member but seldom seen or heard. It would normally be unusual for such a high ranking official with a critically important job to hide from the public and speak through teleconferences. Of course Christie wants to take all the credit, but recently there has been increasing blame. Ferzan held one of his press teleconferences yesterday where he said, “Politics has played absolutely no role in disaster recovery.” Given past (and likely future) information, he would have a difficult time defending that position at an open give-and-take press conference. See why below the fold.

Hoboken Mayor says Christie held Sandy $$ hostage unless she approved development deal he favored

“Make sure you get my stuff expedited.”

 – Solomon Dwek to Hoboken Mayor Pete Cammarano, 2009


“If you want that Sandy money, you need to get that Rockefeller project moving, because it’s very important to the Governor.”

                                   – LG Gaudagno to Dawn Zimmer, 2013

“”If you move that forward [the Rockefeller project], the money would start flowing to you,” he [DCA Commissioner Richard Constable] tells me.”

                                        – Zimmer journal, May 17, 2013

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was on UP with Steve Kornacki last night. And … she pretty much blew the lid off the place. Zimmer, who has been one of Gov. Christie’s strongest mayoral cheerleaders, is now accusing Christie of holding Sandy money hostage because she did not approve a redevelopment project a private developer wanted in the time frame Christie wanted. And for this, she says, her city – devastated by Sandy – was starved of the funds he controlled for recovery. And, she contends, the messengers of that threat were LG Gaudagno and DCA Commissioner Richard Constable.

This is complex, involves a good number of high-level Christie inner-sanctum players – including Port Authority Chair David Samson. But if true, it demonstrates a pattern of misuse of government powers and government resources by Christie and those serving him at the highest levels. It is the very same view of Christie that the political-retribution scenario of Christie’s GWB scandal also appears to illustrate. And at least one statement, if true – which Zimmer says she wrote down in her diary after Guadagno said it – also points toward willingness to lie and cover up what the Christie team was doing:

“At the end of a big tour of ShopRite, she [Guadagno] pulls me aside with no one else around and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project. 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 – if you tell anyone I said that, I will deny it.

                                          – Zimmer journal, May 17, 2013

Below the fold is the 24-minute set-up, a primer to the players and the development deal Zimmer says Christie pressured her to approve. In the next diary down, Zimmer tells the story herself. (videos)

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer on UP with Steve Kornacki (video)

Zimmer, who brought her personal diary with her, says she is willing to testify under oath that what she’s reporting is true, and to take a lie detector test. She says she was pressured by the Christie administration – through encounters with LG Guadagno and DCA Commissioner Constable – to offer a windfall to a private developer favored by Christie, and to do it within a time frame he wanted. She says she had “no choice” but to come forward with this story. Statements were issued from the Christie administration via Michael Drewniak for Christie and Guadagno, and DCA with a statement representing Constable. Everything Zimmer says is denied. All the principles in the story were invited but declined to come and be interviewed by Kornacki.  

Kornacki who broke the story, writes a detailed narrative of the story here.

Below the fold, the Zimmer interview in two parts.

What’s Happening Today Thu. 10/24/2013

Our Deteriorating Infrastructure: Two bridges less than a mile from me which I use many times each week are in serious disrepair. Gov. Christie’s concern for and funding of State infrastructure projects is a big problem today and growing more dire as time progresses. “The 113-year-old Midtown Bridge, a heavily traveled link across the Hackensack River between Bogota and Hackensack, has been shut down because of structural issues, authorities said Tuesday.” Last year a state review found “The 41-year-old Anderson bridge between Teaneck and Hackensack required significant repairs, prompting Bergen County officials to lower the allowed weight limit and forcing eleven bus routes serving about 2,000 riders to be detoured indefinitely off the bridge.” Needed repair has not been started.

Barbara Buono on her website emphasizes she “has  been a strong supporter of the ARC project and understands the value of investing in our infrastructure to make our workers and our businesses more competitive.” Below is what Tri-State Transportation Campaign in an October report says about Christie’s new budget:

“The analysis  shows that NJDOT is moving further away from a “fix-it-first” approach despite the deteriorating conditions of its existing road and bridge infrastructure … 10 percent of its bridges and 41 percent of its highway pavements are not in acceptable condition…The State plans on investing 25 percent of the Capital Program’s dollars on projects that repair or preserve the State’s existing roads and bridges, down from nearly 30 percent in the 2013 Capital Program.”

Environmental groups at 12:00 noon will hold a news conference to release a Superstorm Sandy recovery scorecard, grading recovery efforts at the federal and state levels, and identifying what needs to be done, at the Statehouse’s Room 109, Trenton. In the meantime the Senate and Assembly joint environmental committees have held four Sandy hearings across the state. Gov. Christie has done a masterful job of portraying his super-human actions related to the storm, but when it comes to answering hard questions he stonewalls. Assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D-29), co-chair of the hearings, on NJTV last night said that Richard Constable, DCA Commissioner, and Mark Ferzan, tasked by the Governor to oversee and coordinate Sandy recovery efforts, were asked to testify at the hearings but refused to attend any of them.

What’s Happening in your District? NJ Spotlight provides a brief overview of the legislative races in each district. Go here.

PUBLIC SCHEDULES

Buono/Silva gubernatorial campaign: Barbara Buono: 11:45am, Middlesex County Retired Educators Association Luncheon, East Brunswick Chateau, 678 Cranbury Rd., East Brunswick.

Christie/Guadagno gubernatorial campaign: Chris Christie: 10:00am, campaign stop with Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. and Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, Caldwell Fire Department, Caldwell;  11:30am, announcement about business tax savings, Vac-U-Max headquarters, Belleville.

NJPIRG Law & Policy : 10am, with Sens. Sandra Cunningham and Robert Singer, conference call to release a report about which private student-loan lenders generated the most complaints from borrowers to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Open thread: Add an event taking place today of interest to our readers, or email items for this column the evening before to BillOrr563@gmail.com

What’s Happening Today Mon. 09/30/2013

Countdown to shutdown: As the N. Y. Times reports this morning, “The Senate is expected to reject decisively a House bill that would delay the full effect of President Obama’s health care law as a condition for keeping the government running.” Then it’s back to the House. Will Republicans continue to insist that in order to keep our government open we must delay or end Obamacare, which is not only a law, but has passed Supreme Court muster? Our N. J. Republican Congressmen so far have voted in lock step to defund the ACA in spite of the fact that the Senate will not agree with such action and the President has emphatically said he would veto the bill. Sen. Jeff Chiesa has also joined this pointless quest. In a perverse way both parties have profited from this quagmire by upping their fundraising – the Democrats  reminding their base how stupid the Republicans are acting, and the Republicans extolling their brave stand against the evil Obamacare. It’s no way to run a government, and on that point even Chris Christie is now in agreement.

Public Schedules:  

Buono/Silva gubernatorial campaign: Milly Silva: 6:15pm, Democratic Committee of Bergen Hall Fame Induction, Stony Hill, Hackensack.

Christie/Guadagno gubernatorial campaign: Chris Christie: 4:00pm, “Soul of Hunger” roundtable discussion with the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank; 6:30pm, address members of Laborers’ International Union of North America, Newark.

U. S. Senate candidate Cory Booker: 2:30pm, the New Jersey Democratic State Committee’s Newark field office to thank get-out-the-vote volunteers; evening reception at the home of Tracy Higgins and Jim Leitner, Montclair, RSVP: smaltzman@corybooker.com; 8:30pm, jogging with Montclair Democratic Chairman and Freeholder Brendan Gil, and others, Montclair.

U. S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan: 7:00pm, Fundraiser, The home of Seth and Avigail Rothenberg, 126 Amsterdam Avenue, Passaic.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Sens. Nia Gill and Raymond Lesniak: noon, a news conference to discuss the latest developments in efforts to make it legal for gay couples to marry in New Jersey, Statehouse Room 103, Trenton. Gov. Christie has said he will appeal the summary judgment which calls for same-sex marriages to commence October 21. He continues to argue for a ballot initiative for this civil rights issue, but the legislature disagrees and will not vote to permit the initiative.

Senate: Noon, quorum call, Senate chamber.

Senate and Assembly environment committees: 10am, joint hearing with testimony about the progress of Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts from Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable III and Marc Ferzan, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding, Committee Room 4, Statehouse Annex. Recovery is far from complete for many who continue to have difficulty navigating through state and federal red tape.

Assembly Health & Senior Services Committee: 10:00am, testimony about “changing health care practices and improvements in access, cost and quality,” Room 16, Statehouse Annex.

Senate Commerce Committee: 10am, Room 6, Statehouse Annex.

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt: 9:00am, hosts a workshop to help small-business owners understand the health reform law, East Brunswick Library. The NJ Health exchange opens tomorrow. To become a member at the earliest date, January 1, 2014, people must enroll by by December 31. To learn more about the exchange and whether you qualify, go to this federal website.

Open thread: Add an event taking place today of interest to our readers, or email items for this column the evening before to BillOrr563@gmail.com

“To fix the economy, fix the housing market”

In 2008 when asked what one economic or financial problem they have been hearing the most about in the news recently, a plurality of Americans point to problems with the housing market. The housing crisis remains the most visible economic problem today – seemingly intractable but yet  the most in need of solving lest it lead to further economic downturn and further state expenditures for those affected. While there are some signs of improvement nationally, in New Jersey not so much.

The Christie administration has been unresponsive, and Republican legislators have just opposed two bills designed to bring relief. In New Jersey on a year-to-year basis foreclosure starts are the 4th highest in the nation, and foreclosure activity is the 2nd highest. As a legislative bill indicates, “The number of mortgage foreclosure actions filed in the New Jersey Courts grew from just over 20,000 in 2005 to more than 51,000 in 2008, 66,000 in 2009, and 58,000 in 2010.”

Highly reported has been the administration’s failure to make use of a $300 million “Hardest Hit” federal grant. “Among the 18 states that received federal “Hardest Hit” funds to help homeowners facing foreclosure, NJ has used the lowest percentage of the money allocated as of June 30.” On Monday the Star-Ledger reported Gov. Chris Christie conceded the state made mistakes. Richard Constable, commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, which includes the Housing Division, said, “Candidly, we were doing our citizens a disservice in how we were administering the program.”

Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Union), sponsor of the two key recent bills, stated, “We’re going to keep holding their feet to the fire to make sure we don’t lose $300 million in federal funds, and poor people don’t lose their homes because the state is not paying attention.” Nonetheless, on Monday all four Republican members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted against Lesniak’s Bill S2202 which requires New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency to disburse the “Hardest Hit” funds more rapidly and expend the entire amount by December 31, 2017. Fortunately, the nine Democrats on the committee voted in favor. The Assembly has yet to issue a companion bill.

Another important related bill has now appeared before two Senate committees. S2157 establishes a temporary program  for the purpose of purchasing foreclosed residential properties from institutional lenders and dedicating them for occupancy as affordable housing. The Office of Legislative Services concludes, up to $19.5 million would  be made available for affordable housing production.  The bill was reported out of two committees with Democrats voting in favor. In the Senate Economic Growth Committee Republican Joseph Kyrillos, running for U. S. Senate, voted against it. In the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee all six Republican members opposed it. Also the Assembly still needs to issue a companion bill.

In 2011, Larry Summers, former U. S. Treasury Secretary, said, “To fix the economy, fix the housing market.” Our federal government is trying to do more. It’s time our state government does likewise.