Home > Uncategorized > Secret Meeting and Emails Show DEP Was Pushing Mayor on Rockefeller Development In Hoboken Scandal

Secret Meeting and Emails Show DEP Was Pushing Mayor on Rockefeller Development In Hoboken Scandal

Example of How Christie Red Tape Czar Guadagno & DEP Martin Promote Development

Why Secret Meetings at DEP With Developers’ Lawyers & Lobbyists Must Be Banned

The New York Times ran a good story today explaining some of the history and political machinations behind the Rockefeller development project in Hoboken (see: How Pressure Mounted for Development in Hoboken).

That project is the focal point in the “Hoboken shakedown”, where, according to Mayor Zimmer, carrying a message from Gov. Christie, Lt. Gov. Guadagno linked receipt of Sandy funds to local approvals of the project.

Importantly, for the first time, the NY Times story brings the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) into the scandal story.

Emails the Times was given show that DEP made the proposed Rockefeller development the number one priority in a meeting with the Hoboken Mayor. The meeting, requested by the Mayor, was supposed to focus on far broader and immediate citywide “ongoing flood emergency” issues:

HOBOKEN, N.J. — Last May 8, a severe rainstorm left the streets of this city flooded once again, causing the mayor, Dawn Zimmer, to recall the inundation from Hurricane Sandy.

So she dashed off a letter to Gov. Chris Christie, imploring him to help with Hoboken’s “ongoing flooding emergency,” and attached photos of cars in water up to their hoods. She was due to meet the next day with officials of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, when she hoped to talk about protecting Hoboken from the next catastrophic deluge to come.

But according to newly obtained emails sent among the participants, the first topic of discussion on the agenda was “review of concepts for flood control measures at Rockefeller property,” a reference to a billion-dollar office complex proposed at the north end of town. The developer, the Rockefeller Group, which had long been trying to gain approval from local officials, sent two executives, two lobbyists and an engineer to the meeting.

Rockefeller’s proposed development is the first topic on the agenda? At a meeting that is supposed to be about the City’s “ongoing flood emergency”? Are you kidding me?

The Mayor correctly refused to discuss the Rockefeller project.

The next day, the Mayor got a call from Lt. Gov. Guadagno that set up the meeting in Hoboken where Mayor Zimmer said Guadagno linked Sandy aid with approval of the Rockefeller property.

The agenda and timing of the DEP meeting, the Mayor’s refusal to discuss the Rockefeller project, and the Lt. Gov.’s call and subsequent visit to Hoboken are proof positive that DEP was being used by the Governor’s Office to promote the Rockefeller project.

That is totally consistent with Governor Christie’s policy and Lt. Gov. Guadagno’s role as “Red Tape Czar and DEP Commissioner Martin’s shift in DEP’s mission to “promote economic development”.

These kind of secret meetings between DEP political appointees and the lawyers and lobbyists for developers are improper (see: This is Why We Need Transparency At DEP).

We’ve twice petitioned DEP to force disclosure of these kinds of meetings and to make the meeting calendars of high DEP officials public documents. Those petitions were denied. We did not seek to ban such meetings, just to make them transparent and force public disclosure. The public has a right to know who taxpayer funded public employees are meeting with. 

ELEC regulations (***see below) require that registered lobbyists disclose such meetings, so why are DEP officials not accountable?

The Hoboken meeting is a perfect example of why such meetings are inappropriate, subvert the public interest, and must be made transparent.

Perhaps the media will begin to focus on and report the fact that Commissioner Martin’s only qualification for the job was that he serve as an advisor to Gov. Christie’s 2009 campaign. Martin has no environmental training or government experience. He is a retired corporate consultant.

It is obvious that Martin is at DEP to carry out Gov. Christie’s political agenda.

I’ve been urging the press corps to investigate the DEP role in the various scandals that are exploding in the wake of Bridgegate and Hoboken, as investigative reporters finally begin looking at how the Christie administration operates.

Let’s hope that today’s story opens the flood gates for a series of stories of how DEP has used its regulatory powers to promote the economic interests of friends of Governor Christie.

There are many shoes to drop in that line of inquiry.

Here is Lori Grifa’s, (Wolff & Samson) 2nd Quarter 2013 (April – June) ELEC Report: Note representation of Rockefeller Group before NJ Transit and NJ DEP on Hoboken issues.

Interestingly, here is Ms. Grifa’s 1st Quarter ELEC Report (Jan. – March 2013)note lobbying of Governor’s Office preceded DEP meeting, which provides additional evidence in support of the fact that DEP was carrying out the Gov.’s political agenda:

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