Tag Archive: Marc Ferzan

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.

What’s Happening Today Tue. 01/21/2014

UPDATE: Tonight’s inauguration bash at Ellis Island has just been canceled, with weather the official reason given – Rosi

Today is Governor Chris Christie’s and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno’s day to celebrate the inauguration of their second term in office. They might feel less celebratory than they originally expected as Bridgegate and Sandy funding matters take their toll. Also the weather often puts a damper on inaugurations. The temperature is expected to be way below freezing in all three of the venue areas with snow in Trenton and Ellis Island. A good time will probably not be had by all.

The schedule of events is:  

  • Morning Service at 8:00am at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark.

  • Swearing In Ceremony and Inaugural Address at 11:30am at the Trenton War war Memorial. NJTV will cover it live and NJ.com will provide live video. Steve “On Again” Lonegan will offer commentary on the event on CNN. Read excerpts from his speech.

  • The Inaugural Celebration from 7:00pm to 11:30pm at the Great Hall on Ellis Island ($500 per person).

    As an alternate activity you can join Occupy Sandy protesters in the park across from the Trenton State House. They believe that middle class and poor people have not received their fair share of funding, and black and Latino applicants have been disproportionately rejected for resettlement and construction grants.

    Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker in his Borowitz Report (The news reshuffled) reported yesterday, “A support group for mayors bullied by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie held its first meeting today at the Prudential Center arena in Newark … The event was interrupted fifteen minutes in, however, when power to the Prudential Center was abruptly cut off, plunging the arena into darkness.”

    Show us the $70 million: There has been a lot of discussion regarding how much Sandy funding NJ has dispensed to Hoboken. The city mayor Dawn Zimmer on Saturday expressed concern that Hoboken was receiving insufficient Sandy monies and that she was being coerced to approve a development project in order to receive more. Christie spokesman Colin Reed responded that Hoboken has been “approved for nearly $70 million dollars in federal aid.” That’s nice to know, but it is not what is indicated on the NJ Sandy Transparency site. There you find a Sandy Federal Funds Tracker that reports federal funding allotment of disaster relief funds by municipality. For Hoboken the Tracker lists:

  • Community Development Block Grants – EDA Programs – 10/07/013 – 2 businesses – $46,277.88

  • FEMA Individual Assistance – Various Individuals – 09/20/2013 – $ 6,130,000

  • FEMA Public Assistance funds  – Hoboken City, 08/22/2013 – $ 5,880,000

  • FTA Public Transportation Emerg. Relief – Hoboken City Yard and Terminal recovery repairs – 11/04/2013 – $2,141,000

  • Project School Emergency Response to Violence – Hoboken City School District – 12/10/2013 – $48,142.

    The above total is $14,245,419, and this sum represents what is allocated but not necessarily dispensed to recipients yet. It appears spokesperson Colin Reed, the State’s website and even Marc Ferzan yesteday can not keep their numbers straight. There should be a truly transparent site that differentiates between “promised” (something a spokesperson says during a crisis), allocated, and disbursed, and between payments doled out by the feds vs. the State. The transparency promised by Christie is not there, just hype and lack of clarity.

    Unsigned Bills from the previous Legislature: There are plenty of them on Gov. Christie’s desk. He must sign, veto, conditionally veto or pocket veto each one.

    On the 4th anniversary of Citizen’s United: Students affiliated with the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, at 11:00am, will launch a campaign at Rutgers University in New Brunswick and Newark to bring an end to large corporate spending on elections.  

  • What’s Happening Today Tue. 12/03/2013

    Events today: Board of State Canvassers meets to certify the results of last month’s general election, noon, in the Statehouse Annex’s Committee Room 5. Communications Workers of America union endorses Councilman Ras Baraka in the Newark mayoral election, 12:30pm at CWA Local 1037′s office in Newark. Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, 9:15am holds its annual summit, with speakers Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera and union executive Milly Silva, 11:30am, Crowne Plaza Monroe, South Brunswick. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker visits Cumberland County.

    Where Are They Today?

    Gov. Chris Christie resigned his job as New Jersey’s U. S. Attorney in 2009 to become governor. He brought with him an extraordinarily large number of former staff members from the Attorney’s Office. Who are some of these people and where are they today?

  • Paula Dow: Christie’s first cabinet appointee served as NJ’s Attorney General for less than two years and then was named to a NY/NJ Port Authority post by Christie after his nomination of her as a Superior Court Judge ended in a political standoff with the Senate.

  • Phillip Kwon: Appointed First Assistant Attorney General. In 2012 Christie nominated him to the NJ Supreme Court but the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination and he also took a job at the NY/NJ Port Authority.

  • Marc Ferzan: Appointed Executive Assistant NJ attorney general. Then after Sandy he was appointed Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding – “the Sandy Czar.”

  • Ralph J. Marra Jr.: appointed to the top legal post at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

  • Marc Larkins Appointed Executive Director of the NJ School Development Authority Board.

  • Lee Solomon: Appointed President of the Board of Public Utilities and then returned to one of his prior positions as a NJ Superior Court judge.

  • Robert Hanna: Appointed Director of the Division of Law in the Attorney General’s office and then head of the NJ Board of Public Utilities, replacing Lee Solomon, where he remains today. Christie also nominated him last year to the NJ Supreme Court, but the Senate has not acted on the nomination.

  • Stephen Taylor: Appointed Director of Criminal Justice in the AG’s office.

  • Deborah Gramiccioni:  Appointed Director of the Governor’s Authorities Unit, then Deputy Chief of Staff.

  • Jeffrey S. Chiesa: Appointed Christie’s Chief Counsel. Then in 2011 Attorney General, replacing Paula Dow. Then interim U.S. Senator following Frank Lautenberg’s death and until Cory Booker became U.S. Senator. Chiesa is now with a prominent NJ law firm.

  • Kevin M. O’Dowd: Appointed Deputy Chief Counsel, then in 2011 appointed Chief of Staff replacing Richard Bagger. Yesterday he was nominated to be Attorney General.

  • Charles McKenna: Appointed Head of Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, then replaced Jeff Chiesa as Chief Counsel.

  • Michele Brown: Governor’s Appointments Counsel, then in 2012 CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.  

  • Paul Matey: Appointed Christie’s Senior Counsel; in 2011 he replaced O’Dowd as Deputy Chief Counsel.  

    Make of this what you will: A raiding of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Christie creating a “Law and Order” governor’s office, Christie finding comfort with loyal former employees, etc. These attorneys have played key (successful and unsuccessful) roles in Christie’s administration. However, in 2011 Christie with remarkable candor and bravado said, “It’s my agenda, It’s not Kevin’s agenda or Rich’s agenda or Charlie’s agenda, or Jeff’s agenda. It’s my agenda…”

  • 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