While we wait for new document releases and/or reports from the NJ legislature commission investigating the closure of Ft. Lee access lanes to the GW Bridge, Shawn Boburg of the NJ Record has done some seriously good reporting: New Port Authority conflict issue emerges: NJ Transit got $1 lease while a client of David Samson’s law firm.

Before diving into this, it should be noted that the silence from the NY politicians regarding the management of the Port Authority of NY and NJ over the past few years is beginning to look like another giant red flag.  Likely signaling that the corruption and rot isn’t limited to NJ.

What Boburg presents is evidence of more and deeper links between NJ Transit and the PA under David Samson, Chairman, and principle in Wolff & Samson.  Samson through his law firm have been bilking the State of NJ and PA for big bucks.  However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The big money is in the larger scheme to privatize NJ public transit operations and transfer public lands into private hands.

“It seems like the tentacles of Wolff & Samson have infiltrated so many aspects of the public transportation system in New Jersey,” said political science professor Brigid Harrison of Montclair State University. “These questionable practices keep repeating themselves. What otherwise might seem like isolated incidents of bad judgment and individual conflicts of interest are creating a pattern in which Wolff Samson, and David Samson, are essentially exercising very broad authority across the state to benefit their firm and their private clients.”

Christie’s 2010 cancellation of the ARC Tunnel project was possibly a larger piece of the whole scheme than has previously been considered.  In the short run, it allowed his administration to suck monies from the tunnel project for ordinary maintenance of NJ roads, etc.  That was in lieu of raising gas taxes — NJ has among the lowest of gas tax rates — which may have enhanced his standing among NJ voters.  In the longer run, the GW Bridge maintained its position as a critical NJ access to NYC.  Or why go to NYC at all if NJ can become a mini-Manhattan?  That would take a lot of coordination and money to achieve.

Step One: Pack the Port Authority with Christie political appointees.  It didn’t go unnoticed and superficially, only looked as if Christie was using the PA as a patronage pit.  A form of political corruption that seems not to bother the public enough to do anything about it.    

So, why did the PA fund the study to further a Hoboken development project plan by the NYC Rockefeller Group?  Why not considering that the Rockefeller Group was represented by Wolff & Samson?  A study that concluded only the Rockefeller Group property was suitable for a new high-rise development.  The approval to proceed from Hoboken should have then been a slam-dunk.  When it wasn’t, team Christie stepped in and denied Hoboken Hurricane Sandy relief funds and according to Mayor Zimmer, informed her that relief funds were contingent on getting the Rockefeller Group project approved.

Why did the PA fund the renovation of a PATH station in Harrison?  Again tied to Samson and a new private development project.  

Boburg’s article focuses on the terms of the renewal of the parking lot lease between the PA and NJ Transit.  A forty-five year lease with annual rent of $1, reduced from the prior rent of $900,000.  (Wolff & Samson managed the lease renewal for both parties and earned hefty fees.)  Stick a few more sweet, long-term lease agreements in the NJ Transit portfolio, and selling the parking lots to private investors will look sweeter than Chicago parking meters.  Small steps in the path to selling off public property and sticking it to the 99% forever.
Update #1

Bridge scandal records reveal hands-on David Samson at Port Authority

Records turned over to the state legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closings show the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, David Samson, has been “intimately involved” with day-to-day operations.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), a co-chair of the panel, said the documentsprovided by Samson include many communications between him and the Christie administration, though none yet show direct contact with Gov. Chris Christie himself.

“It paints a picture of a guy that’s intimately involved in the operations at the Port Authority,” Wisniewski said. “He’s not a chairman of the board in a traditional sense, but a guy who’s making a lot of phone calls back and forth with folks down in Trenton.”

[Update #2]

The release of 9/9/13 Ft. Lee 911 tapes tell little not previously known This is interesting:

Officers also discussed multiple issues with rear-end accidents that were occurring amid the traffic.

Previously released Fort Lee records show there were 34 accidents during the days of the closures.

Is that thirty-four potential civil suits against those that created and conducted the traffic nightmare? Punitive damages could bankrupt the players and put a large ding in the finances of the Port Authority and State of NJ.

[Update #3]

NYTimes report on a new statement from Paul Nunziato, head of the Port Authority Police Union, through his attorney. Recall that the PA Police Union endorsed Christie and Nunziato has been running some interference for Boronia and Wildstein in the investigation of the GW Bridge access lane closings.

…In the written statement, Mr. Sciarra said Mr. Nunziato’s comments grew out of loyalty to his political allies and that he believed that the lane closings stemmed from the dispute between the Port Authority’s New York and New Jersey factions.

“My client was trying to be supportive of people who were supportive of his union; he never intended to mislead,” Mr. Sciarra said in a brief interview.

IOW Nunziato has been lying. Has he been given immunity? Is this the first conspirator domino to fall?

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