What’s the Matter with Hoboken?

by Reihan Salam

Josh Barro of Business Insider addresses Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s new allegations against members of the Christie administration. According to Zimmer, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno threatened to withhold post-Sandy assistance if she didn’t play ball with a zoning change that would benefit an influential real estate developer, the Rockefeller Group. Basically, Barro explains that the modest amount that Hoboken has received under the state’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) makes sense when viewed in the context of the amount of money that has been disbursed so far, the share of grant funds that were available to local governments in the first place, and the grant applications for which Hoboken has been eligible so far. And though Barro acknowledges the possibility that the HMGP was structured in a way that cuts against the interests of a dense urban jurisdiction like Hoboken, that can hardly be characterized as the product of political retribution against Zimmer, as there are many other dense urban jurisdictions that have been disadvantaged in the same way. Barro does, however, criticize Team Christie’s PR strategy of focusing on funds that have been disbursed to Hoboken through programs other than HMGP, as the Christie administration has limited leverage over these other funds. 

On a related note, Nikolai Fedak defends the Rockefeller Group’s multi-use real estate development that is at issue, and he states that Zimmer has adopted an anti-development posture that is harming Hoboken’s long-term interests. Zimmer is, of course, entitled to have unwise public policy preferences. But I can’t help but think that while threatening to withhold post-Sandy assistance as part of a quid pro quo would obviously be inappropriate, it seems perfectly reasonable for Christie administration officials to stress the importance of strengthening Hoboken’s, and New Jersey’s, tax base. 

And in light of the shenanigans at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Stephen Smith of The Next City calls for its abolition.