Fort Lee Mayor: I Accept Christie's Apology

'I take him for his word,' Mayor Mark Sokolich said after accepting governor's in-person apology late Thursday afternoon.

Gov. Chris Christie walks to the Fort Lee Municipal Building for a meeting with the mayor. Photo: Jim Leggate.
Gov. Chris Christie walks to the Fort Lee Municipal Building for a meeting with the mayor. Photo: Jim Leggate.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich accepted Gov. Chris Christie's apology for punitive lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, but he also said Thursday afternoon that he believes the governor had no role in the closures.

"The most important concern that we had was that this never, ever happens again in the future. We were unconditionally and unequivocally given that assurance," Sokolich said after a closed meeting with Christie in Fort Lee.

Sokolich had said earlier in the day he thought Christie should wait to come to Fort Lee until a full investigation was completed, but said that it had been a productive meeting.

"It is an ongoing investigation," Sokolich said. "There is a lot more information that I think needs to be reviewed. ... To a certain extent, we have to wait and see what transpires."

"I take him for his word," Sokolich said. "He said he had nothing to do with it."

Christie had few words for reporters after the meeting, but said that he and the mayor "had a very good, productive meeting and I look forward to working with him in the future."

Fort Lee residents waiting outside to hear from the governor had mixed reactions. Some shook Christie's hand, while others heckled the governor and demanded he take a lie detector test.

The September lane closures caused heavy traffic delays in Fort Lee and slowed emergency response time to at least four incidents, including reaching an unconscious 91-year-old woman who later died of cardiac arrest.

Fort Lee resident Julio Balmaseda said he wasn't sure if the governor had known about the closures, but was happy Christie took action against those he knew were involved.

"It means he's going in the right direction, but I hope that they don't find out he knew about it," Balmaseda said. "I had high hopes for him, and for him to be involved in something so disgraceful, it's not nice."

Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, was fired Thursday morning one day after email messages surfaced that she sent prior to the lane closures, including one saying it's "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."

The traffic during the closures had been "impossible," Balmaseda said. It took him 45 minutes to drive his son to school at the time, he said.

"The traffic here is bad as it is," Balmaseda said. "For somebody to do something intentionally that disrupts that even more, it's not nice. And what do they have to gain by it? They're not punishing the mayor. They're not only punishing the people of this town, but people from all over. I mean, this is the busiest bridge in the world."
JG January 10, 2014 at 09:07 AM
Well I have tried fruitlessly to get this and the prvious administration to see what the State funds are paying for here in Brick with the four way interchange on the garden State Parkway and this is a Ocean County Project being funded with moneys from the State of New Jersey and every Tax payer in New Jerey to extend and Street beyond some stores to accomodate a four way interchange the Parkway is adding at the recommendation of the Ocean County Engineering dept.. The Parkway is changing its entrance Ramp north in Bricktown on Burnt Tavern Rd. The County ha spushed this idea of adding a south bound entrance and a north bound exit , the Parkway has no problem with it but its in material to the parkway and its the County who is funding the change in Road patterns and of course the accusitions of properties to do this, except the two home I own (for over 52 years) mine are the only residences that will be directly affected by the flow of traffic and the lost of value to my homes they are presently zoned residential but my only hope was to rezone commercial now I don't know how desirably that even is . A TOTAL WASTE OF STATE MONIES THAT HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO THE STATE FROM FEDERAL FUNDING, this is a veru congested area and the last think we need is a four way interchange . perhaps an engineer can make anything look right, but common sense is all you need to see this nightmare here, it was proposed for years and I guess now that they can use State monies there going to move along with this thing anytime, I've tried to get in touch with people , I get answers like "well its going to move along and your not going to change that"?? " Its not County monies we are using its State funded monies," "You Might as well give up because its getting done" And I get a message left on my answering machine to contact a Mr Rankin at the State level and tried at least three or four times but it ended there the County engineers just appease me and even the freeholders did nothing , its like its a done deal, So I guess I don't want to say you didn't know this because if so PERHAPS you need to check with your offices ? I realize you have to depend on people but perhaps you need to check up on them once in awhile . Because apparently they take the liberty of deciding whats important and not. SO WHEN BURNT TAVERN ROAD ENDS UP a disaster You can't say you weren't told because I even had it in a local newspaper a few years ago, contacted Senator Ciesla and Assemblymen Dave Wolfe and Jim Hozaphal more than once which is now Senator McGuckins office If yo don't listen that doesn't mean you shouldn't have known. And I like the man . But he needs to follow up , I didn't get a chance to speak at Lake Riviera middle school , but I think they were concentrating on Sandy then , either way it would have been a good time for him to see what could happen to Burnt Tavern Rd in Brick town and get thrown in like it all had to do with this Parkway stuff when it does not really .


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