Wednesday, November 02, 2011
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he feels badly for his 2009 political opponent, then-Governor Jon Corzine, and the investors of MF Global, the Corzine-led securities firm that filed for bankruptcy protection Monday.
Monday, October 31, 2011
President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for Connecticut following a surprisingly strong October snowstorm that plunged millions into darkness over the weekend and drew comparisons to Tropical Storm Irene and will continue to cause problems for Monday evening commutes.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
By Bob Hennelly
Drivers are facing a tough commute across parts of the Northeast that were smacked by a surprisingly strong October snowstorm and plunged millions into darkness over the weekend.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) Weehawken, New Jersey, just got racy. Governor Chris Christie has announced a deal with the London-based Formula 1 racing circuit to hold a Grand Prix event around a 3.2 mile route laid out on local roads in June 2013. Over part of the course, the cars will speed along the edge of the Palisades overlooking the Hudson River with the skyline of Manhattan in the background.
Race organizers said, "100,000 people are expected to attend each race, starting with practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday, and racing on Sunday." They also touted the site's access by PATH train and other forms of mass transit. Local officials said in a statement that no government subsidies were used to land the race, which they estimate will bring "several hundred million dollars to the region annually."
Until now, Weehawken had mainly been known as the place Alexander Hamilton went to be shot to death in a duel with Aaron Burr. Now it will be associated with low-slung, open-wheeled cars racing at an average speed of 185 miles per hour.
Formula 1 holds 19 races a year around the world. The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, the sport's race-sanctioning body, says it is "the number one sport worldwide in revenue produced per event, and attracts an audience of 600 million people in 188 counties annually."
The sport has long had its eye on the New York market. Several plans have been floated over the years, including one in the late 1990s for the south shore of Staten Island that called for tens of thousands of spectators to arrive by ferry. Another proposal would've held the race on a mothballed navy base at the other end of the borough. That plan was shot down by residential neighbors fearful of ear-splitting noise from the racing machines.
Note to drivers who find themselves waiting in line at the mouth of the nearby Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan in June 2013: if the driver next to you is wearing a helmet and steering an open cockpit vehicle, he has strayed from the nearby racecourse and, given the normally sluggish speed of traffic in New Jersey, will not win.
Monday, October 24, 2011
—It's A Free Country political peporter Anna Sale on The Brian Lehrer Show.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
By Marlon Bishop : WNYC Culture Producer
A collection of almost 15,000 objects, magazines, songbooks, newspaper clippings and documents relating to The Boss has found a new home at Monmouth University, located near the Jersey Shore watering holes where Springsteen first performed as a young musician.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
By Bob Hennelly
Redistricting in New Jersey has caused some long-time politicians — including Democratic heavyweight former Governor Dick Codey — to work harder to keep their seats ahead of the election next month.
Monday, October 10, 2011
By Bob Hennelly
By nearly a 2-to-1 margin, New Jersey voters oppose any state subsidy for the developers trying to finish the long-stalled Xanadu mega-mall that has been re-branded as "American Dream Meadowlands," according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University Public Mind Poll released Monday.
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
UPDATED: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made two things perfectly clear in his announcement that he won't run for president. "Now is not my time" Christie said, saying there was too much work for him to do in New Jersey to leave now. And this: he wants to "make sure Obama is a one-termer."
That feeling may be mutual.
Late last week, New Jersey and the U.S. DOT settled a year-long tussle over a transit tunnel that was to run under the Hudson River from New Jersey to Manhattan, a project Christie pulled the plug on last year. But bitterness and rancor remain, even as Christie bows out of his chance to take on Obama directly.
(Read down in the post for some choice words U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had for Governor Christie, in an overlooked letter LaHood wrote last April.)
Once upon a time, governors of both political parties did not fight with the federal DOT, which was seen a source of funds for the kinds of public works that make local officials look good -- roads, bridges, tunnels -- big projects that were seen to create jobs, make constituents happy, and, most of all, give politicians all-important ribbon-cutting opportunities.
But in 2010, Christie showed that he was perfectly willing to stop a big project literally in its tracks, to the increasing consternation of the usually amiable LaHood, himself a former Republican Congressman from Peoria, Illinois.
At issue was a $9 billion transit tunnel under the Hudson River, the largest new transit project in the nation. The tunnel, known as the Access to the Region's Core, or ARC tunnel, was already under construction. It was to have created an extra pathway for NJ Transit trains, which now share a tunnel with Amtrak. That tunnel is at capacity.
A year ago, Christie halted work, so he could review the project's finances. Christie said he feared the project could cost New Jerseyans billions of dollars more than projected. Big infrastructure projects do tend to run over budget -- but project supporters argued that the construction jobs it would create, along with increased business activity and rising property values along the train line, would offset any increases. That, at least, was the logic that has propelled these kinds of projects forward in the past.
When I first began calling around to federal officials and Washington insiders in the fall of 2010, there was widespread disbelief that Christie would pull the plug on the project.
Both because billions of dollars of federal money would not be coming to New Jersey (the federal government, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and NJ Transit were each footing a third of the $9 billion bill), and also because no one seemed to think Christie would be willing to generate such animosity amongst federal officials whom he might need help from later.
But he was.
In fact, as Christie was publicly mulling a decision he’d already clearly made, the U.S. DOT was strenuously lobbying him (Ray LaHood himself traveled to Trenton twice to make the case). But publicly, no one from the federal government was talking. There were no red hot pokers from the Obama administration side.
Just how angry Ray LaHood became only began to come out as the tunnel was being buried –- literally, as workers began throwing dirt back into the hole after the project had been killed (a second time, as it happened, since Christie, in response to LaHood's treatises, gave the project a temporary reprieve.)
"Chris Christie’s decision to terminate America’s largest transportation project was particularly disappointing," LaHood wrote in an op-ed in the Newark Star Ledger the day after the project died. "Unfortunately, his choice comes with profound consequences for New Jersey, the New York metropolitan region and our nation as a whole."
"Tens of thousands of jobs that the tunnel would have created will be lost. Future New Jerseyans will face shrinking property values, suffocating road traffic, interminable train delays and increasing air pollution. A $3.358 billion federal investment in the region’s economic future will move elsewhere."
But even though the project was dead, the bitterness only seemed to escalate. The U.S. DOT demanded that New Jersey pay back $271 million in funds already spent on the project, which Christie refused to do. Characteristically pugnacious, Christie hired the well-connected law and lobbying firm, Patton Boggs, to argue his case in Washington.
Periodically, the DOT would release stats on how interest and penalties were accruing on the project.
Privately, Ray LaHood was getting more and more irate. In a letter (pdf) to U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg in April, LaHood wrote:
"In February 2010, Governor Christie sat in my office and expressed his full commitment to the completion of the ARC project. In March of 2010, when several news stories called Governor Christie’s commitment to the completion of the ARC project into question, I asked the Governor to restate that commitment in writing. He did so in a letter to me dated April 6, 2010,”
And, then essentially, LaHood called Christie a liar. “The possibility that this project’s cost could run [as high as $12 billion] was first shared with New Jersey Transit as far back as August 2008. Any notion that the potential for cost growth constituted new and emergent information when the Governor made his decision is simply not accurate.”
LaHood held to his position that he would not relent on his demand that Christie pay back the $271 million. By last week, with interest and penalties, the bill had grown to $274 million. But New Jersey’s two Democratic U.S. Senators, Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, had been arguing that New Jersey could pay a lesser amount and at the same time agree to direct $128 million for transit projects in New Jersey.
On Friday the U.S. DOT announced that it had agreed to settle the case. It would accept $95 million from New Jersey, plus the $128 commitment for transit spending.
But Christie tossed into his statement a claim that the $95 million would be offset by $100 million in insurance premium refunds. “First I’m hearing of that,” shot back one federal official when asked.
The implication –- and Christie said as much in his statement –- was that the settlement contains “not one additional dollar of New Jersey taxpayer money.”
But that’s not exactly right. If Christie had gotten his way, and paid zero to the federal government, presumably New Jersey would have been able to pocket the $100 million in insurance premium refunds, not use it to offset a $95 million payment.
Still, though, Christie was able to create the impression he’d boxed his opponent into a corner, again.
That’s a stance we’ll likely see much of from Christie in the next year -- whether he's a candidate for president or not
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Amid speculation that he will decline to run for president, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has scheduled a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the New Jersey statehouse, a last minute addition to his schedule.
The news conference will be held at the governor's office inside the Statehouse in Trenton. Christie has avoided reporters in recent days as those close to him say he has been reconsidering his earlier decision not to make a bid. Christie has been receiving encouragement from top Republicans and GOP donors to jump into the race.
Friday, September 30, 2011
This just in from the U.S. Department of Transportation, there is an ARC tunnel settlement. The federal government had maintained that New Jersey owed $271 million for money spent on the now-cancelled Access to the Region's Core Tunnel project that would have expanded rail access between New Jersey and New York's Penn Station. As recently as this morning, the feds had said that NJ owed an additional $2.6 million in interest on that money.
We'll have reactions and analysis coming in a bit. Here are the official statements.
Statement of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that he has signed an agreement with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the state to reimburse the federal government $95 million for money that was supposed to be spent building the ARC Tunnel. New Jersey terminated the project and the Department has been seeking repayment of $271 million in federal dollars spent by the state on the project.
The $95 million settlement will permit DOT to recover all of the $51 million in New Starts money provided to New Jersey for the ARC Project, so that those funds can be made available to other communities for public transit projects. This amount also recovers approximately 50 percent of the funds provided to New Jersey under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and this money will be returned to the United States Treasury. In addition to the cash payment amount, New Jersey will be required under the terms of the settlement agreement to spend more than $128 million in CMAQ program funds on transit-related projects that have been reviewed and approved by DOT.
“We appreciate the support and encouragement of Senators Lautenberg and Menendez in reaching an agreement that is good for the taxpayers of New Jersey, but also helps to improve infrastructure in the state,” Secretary LaHood said. “I thank the governor and his legal team for reaching this agreement.”
Here's the statement from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:
“I am pleased to announce that we have negotiated a good-faith settlement with the Federal Transportation Administration that puts the interests of New Jersey taxpayers first by substantially reducing the federal government’s original demand. The 5-year payment schedule on a $95 million settlement – which contains not one additional dollar of New Jersey taxpayer money – would be offset by more than $100 million in insurance premium refunds. This represents a fraction of the federal government’s initial claim and won’t cost New Jerseyans any additional money, which would otherwise go to infrastructure improvements. I want to thank U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and his staff for their good-faith efforts in working with us and putting the interest of New Jersey taxpayers ahead of politics. I also want to thank New Jersey Transit and Executive Director Jim Weinstein for their commitment to working toward this settlement.”
NJ's Senate delegation has also weighed in. A joint statement reads:
Today's agreement builds on a deal reached in December between DOT and Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that New Jersey would not have to ultimately pay back $128 million of the total $271 million debt. Of the remaining $143 million, thanks to pressure from Senators Lautenberg and Menendez - as well as members of the state's House delegation, New Jersey's liability will be reduced to $95 million under this deal.
"I thank Transportation Secretary LaHood for honoring our initial agreement to reduce New Jersey's liability by $128 million off the bat. The further reduction in the state's liability will take pressure off New Jersey taxpayers as well," Lautenberg said. "The Governor's decision to kill the ARC tunnel project will hurt New Jersey in the long-term, but we were happy to work with the Department of Transportation to help reduce the costs of this mistake."
"While I remain disappointed that the state abandoned this job-creating project for which we fought so hard to fund, I'm thankful to Secretary LaHood for working to resolve this dispute in a way that best protects our taxpayers," Menendez said.
Friday, September 30, 2011
To help voters sort through the candidates and their positions, NJ Spotlight has put together the 2011 Voter Guide. It lists all the candidates up for election this year, including independents.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
The Adaptations Project has adapted "Kaddish," which the beat poet published 50 years ago, for the stage. "Kaddish (or The Key in the Window)" is a multimedia one-man show that opens on Thursday night.