For New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration, it is not about orange traffic cones anymore. It is about three blocks of run down, abandoned buildings, vacant lots strewn with rubble and a she-said, she-said dispute between the mayor of Hoboken and the Governor’s second-in-command.
Sometimes life turns on small events. It is the same way with history and political fortunes. What once was a promising Presidential potential may be getting derailed by three, nondescript, city blocks in the riverfront town of Hoboken, New Jersey.
Historically, most troubles in Hoboken come down to real estate. From the days when the first officially recorded baseball game was played there, through the 19th and 20th centuries, real estate has been the driving force behind political intrigue, violence and neighbor vs neighbor.
Christie’s administration, along with his political future, may rest on those three blocks of real estate located in the north end of Hoboken with million-dollar high-rise views of the Big Apple’s skyline and where beautifully restored townhouses from the 1800s rest on quiet streets. Upscale restaurants and boutiques like the main avenue in the city that gave the world Frank Sinatra and the hit reality show ‘Cake Boss.”
The Rockefeller Group is a major real estate holding company in the United States. It wants to add to its portfolio by redeveloping those three blocks in Hoboken. The company, which built Rockefeller Center in New York, wants those three blocks to put up apartment buildings and retail spaces. The largest piece of the project would be a 40 story condominium which would be the city’s tallest structure when completed.
The group has been discussing plans with Hoboken city officials since 2008, but the approval process, already slowed by bureaucratic tangling, was slowed even more by the real estate crisis in 2008.
Just as progress was starting to be made, Hurricane Sandy hit and left 80 percent of Hoboken under water. The city leaders hunkered down and started to explore ways to keep the flooding under control in the future.
Hoboken’s mayor, Dawn Zimmer, is in favor of a plan that would build a green belt around the three blocks that have the Rockefeller Group drooling. Zimmer has stated that she is not opposed to development on those blocks, but has concerns about congestion and the added strain on public services.
“My number one priority is to do what’s right for Hoboken,” Zimmer told CNN’s State of the Union.
At the focal point of the newly developing controversy is Zimmer’s claim that New Jersey’s Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has told her that the Sandy recovery funds would be dependent on her rubber stamping the Rockefeller Group’s plan.
Christie’s office and Guadagno have said that Zimmer’s accusations are completely false and a “total fabrication.” The Rockefeller Group denies any knowledge of a quid pro quo tied into the project. A spokesman from the group said, “We have no knowledge of any information pertaining to this allegation. If it turns out to be true, it would be deplorable.”
The battle over the three blocks in Christie’s home state will continue, and life in New Jersey will go on.
By Jerry Nelson