Messages released Wednesday show top officials close to Gov. Chris Christie were involved with the Fort Lee lane closures that some have suggested were payback for crossing the New Jersey governor during his bid for re-election.
The reports contradict statements by Christie, who said his staff and campaign had nothing to do with the closure of local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge that caused a week worth of traffic jams for North Jersey residents.
Emails obtained by The New York Times and The Record show Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff to the governor, told a Port Authority official close to Christie that it was “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” about two weeks before the lanes were closed.
“Got it,” replied the Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, who resigned last month as national media and incensed local politicians turned up the heat on the scandal.
In text messages between Wildstein and an unknown individual revealed by The Record Wednesday, the Port Authority exec references messages left by Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich complaining about school buses stuck in traffic because of lane closures.
“Is it wrong that I’m smiling,” the unknown person wrote to Wildstein.
“No,” replied Wildstein.
“I feel badly about the kids,” the unknown person responded. “I guess.”
“They are the children of Buono voters,” Wildstein replied, referring to Democrat Barbara Buono, who lost in a landslide to Christie in November's election.
In an interview with The Record Wednesday, Sokolich said the Christie administration owes an apology to the families of those affected by slowed emergency responders and delayed school buses.
“How dare you schedule a man-made traffic disaster in my community?” Sokolich told The Record. “It’s the example of the pettiest and most venomous side of politics.”
The apparent political dustup set the state back 20 years, he said.
“We’re now the brunt of misconduct jokes throughout the country... And we deserve it,” Sokolich said.
Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye called the lane closures, which began on Sept. 9, “abusive” and “ill-advised."
"I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a hospital- or hospice-bound patient delayed,” Foye said on Sept. 13 of the resulting traffic jams in Fort Lee.
A Port Authority official said in November a traffic study closed two of the three access lanes from Fort Lee to the GWB.
Wildstein and Bill Baroni, also a Christie appointee to the Port Authority who has resigned, were alerted to the potential dangerous consequences hours before the lanes were closed on the first day, according to NorthJersey.com.