Peabody award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
After Bridgegate, Port Authority Axes Job of Chris Christie Ally
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
David Wildstein's job at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been eliminated, according to an agency spokesperson.
When he came to the Port Authority, Wildstein's resume included political blogger, rug store manager, and mayor of tiny Livingston, NJ. He was given the title "Director of Interstate Capital Projects" and was in charge of distributing billions of dollars for jobs like lifting the Bayonne Bridge and repairing the Pulaski Skyway. Those projects, in turn, helped Christie solve budget problems, keep campaign promises, win political endorsements, and reap hefty contributions.
Even at the time Wildstein was hired, eyebrows shot up over his thin resume, but the Christie administration vigorously defended him. As WNYC has reported, Wildstein understood his marching orders at the Port Authority to be improving Chris Christie's control over the agency's steady stream of toll revenue from its bridges and tunnels. Christie aides have said he was just fighting for the state of New Jersey.
"These are major public infrastructure projects with lasting benefits not just to a particular town but to the entire port facility, New Jersey and New York’s economic well being," Christie's spokesman, Michael Drewniak, told WNYC at the time.
But over the weekend, after Wildstein's attorney said "evidence exists" that the Governor knew of politically-motivated lane closures at the George Washington Bridge while they were happening, Christie aides trashed Wildstein, going back to a dispute he had with a teacher while a 16-year-old when he was running for Livingston's school board.
Christie's spokesman hasn't immediately responded to inquiries about why the decades-old information wasn't relevant before Wildstein was named to the Port Authority post.
After Wildstein's lawyer released his letter, the Port Authority let it be known there would no longer be a director of interstate capital projects, a tacit acknowledgement that the job isn't central to the Port's mission. "That position has been eliminated," Port spokesman Steve Coleman said in an email Monday.
The agency has also refused to pay for Wildstein's legal fees incurred by the New Jersey Legislature and U.S. Attorney's investigations into the Fort Lee traffic jam.