It wasn’t just petty politics, it was dangerous.
That’s what local officials in New Jersey said about lane closures last year on the busiest bridge in America, lane closures that snarled traffic for days in a town near New York City and were revealed Wednesday to be part of a political revenge plot pushed by top aides to Gov. Chris Christie. The scandal has hurt the 2016 presidential hopes of Christie, who said late Wednesday that he was misled by aides about the issue and is set to hold a news conference Thursday morning.
In a Sept. 10 letter obtained by the Record newspaper in New Jersey, EMS Coordinator Paul E. Favia told Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich that emergency crews took more than twice as long to respond to some cases and said that paramedics were delayed in reaching a 91-year-old woman who later died of cardiac arrest. In another instance, he said he was forced to jump a curb to circumvent traffic and reach a car accident with multiple injuries.
“I would like to bring this to your attention as this new traffic pattern is causing unnecessary delays for emergency services to arrive on scene for medical emergencies within the borough,” Favia wrote in the letter.
Documents that surfaced Wednesday suggested that members of Christie’s administration — which initially attributed the delays to a mishandled traffic study — deliberately shuttered lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge after Sokolich, a Democrat, wouldn’t endorse Christie, a Republican, in his ultimately successful reelection bid.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff, wrote in an Aug. 13 email, shortly after Sokolich declined to back Christie.
“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable,” Christie said in a statement late Wednesday. “I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.”
Sokolich said on CNN late Wednesday that he had tried to no avail to plead with the governor’s office for help while his town turned into a veritable parking lot for four days.
“Who would possibly reduce themselves to closing lanes to the busiest bridge in the world, putting my town in harm’s way?” Sokolich said. “He has to publicly address the folks that are specifically impacted by this. I think apologies need to be doled out.”
“You have intentionally put people in harm’s way,” he said.