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Fort Lee Residents’ Reaction Mixed After Christie Mea Culpa

1-10-14

By David Cruz
Correspondent

Gov. Chris Christie’s apology visit to Fort Lee wasn’t immediately welcome by Mayor Mark Sokolich. In an exchange that could only be possible in the age of Twitter, Sokolich and Christie spoke to one another while their respective press conferences were ongoing.

“His trip here today is premature,” said Sokolich at his press conference in Fort Lee. “It’s going to disrupt our kids. It’s going to disrupt our school system and I know that’s not the governor’s intention.”

Within a few seconds, that comment was in the Twitterverse, and a reporter asked the governor about it in Trenton. “Well, if he won’t see me, I’ll go see other people in Fort Lee,” responded the governor. “If he won’t see me, I’ll go see and talk to other people in Fort Lee.”

That response was reported to the mayor within minutes, to which Sokolich responded, “Send back the message to Trenton that we’ve reconsidered. Come on up. We just didn’t think it was appropriate to do it at this time, but that’s fine. C’mon up.”

The meeting was reportedly “cordial” and “constructive,” although the governor never actually visited with any Fort Lee residents to apologize personally. Today, word on the street of this Bergen County town of 40,00 was mixed.

“I thought it was terrific,” said Fort Lee resident Charlotte Cesarski. “Somebody did something that wasn’t right. You can’t be a god over all your help. You never know what gets into them. You have to be an FBI agent.”

But former school teacher Marie Acosta wasn’t as generous. “I don’t believe he’s clear on this,” she said. “I think he did a very good performance yesterday. If I hadn’t read as much about the case, and if I didn’t know enough about personalities, I could’ve believed him, but I don’t.”

With further revelations undoubtedly yet to come, the ultimate impact of the controversy on Christie’s political stock is unknown, but taxi driver Jay Delaney who was in the middle of the Sept. 9 traffic jam says if the scandal had broken before the election, it would’ve changed his mind. “Yes, definitely. I voted for him but I think if he’s doing things like that — underhanded things — that’s not someone I would want to vote for.”

The Assembly Transportation Committee says this is just the beginning of its work. Although members got little from former Port Authority Executive David Wildstein yesterday, Committee Chairman John Wisniewski says we should expect more subpoenas of high-ranking Christie staffers. And the U.S. Attorney is now officially looking into the matter.

The biggest irony in all this is that Christie won in Fort Lee by more than 20 points. It’s tough to see how much better he could have done had he gotten the mayor’s support. But it’s clear today that the unsuccessful pursuit of that endorsement — which the governor still insists he never sought — is proving to be quite expensive indeed.