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.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, second from right, addresses a news conference at Fort Lee, N.J., City Hall, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Sokolich called it "appalling" that the traffic jams appear to have been deliberately created. AP Photo/Richard Drew
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, second from right, addresses a news conference at Fort Lee, N.J., City Hall, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Sokolich called it "appalling" that the traffic jams appear to have been deliberately created. AP Photo/Richard Drew

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."
Marge Teilhaber January 09, 2014 at 06:30 PM
And what do we do to prevent the legal bills for Wildstein and Baroni being paid out of public funds? Did Christie address that and give assurance that our taxes & tolls will not pay a dime of those lawyer fees? Or how about our time & money he squandered by that one-vote-only special election, forcing us to go vote twice in two weeks? shameful.
BW January 09, 2014 at 10:39 PM
Anyone find it amusing that he managed to cause major traffic delays in Fort Lee when he came today? Took my son an extra 45 minutes to get home on the bus today.
Al Norton January 11, 2014 at 09:59 AM
Where is Jeb Bush when you need him?? Christie is small time!! Republicans should think twice about getting on that bandwagon!!!
JeffO January 11, 2014 at 10:19 AM
"I take him for his word" that "he said he had nothing to do with it" is not quite the same thing as saying Mayor Sokolich "believes" him, as Patch reports. I don't see how it's possible for anyone to flat-out say he or she "believes" him. The only question is whether Christie will be able to make his incredible story stick without someone or some document surfacing to refute it.
Sal January 12, 2014 at 09:47 AM
Stick a fork in him___ turn off the oven ___ he is done.
Sal January 12, 2014 at 09:52 AM
It should be very apparent Christie knew. He immediately fired his two top dogs involved when the story first broke. He did not waste even a few days trying to defend them __ because he absolutely knew they were guilty ___ Christie did not defend them, he did not buy 'traffic study' or go along with the "Traffic Study" excuse ___ which he could only have know could not be defended if he was involved..
peter rupert January 12, 2014 at 12:35 PM
Interesting how much press /legal / political this gets. 3 lanes closed vs 4 murdered in Bengazi.
Jack B Goode January 13, 2014 at 05:47 PM
What a bunch of jackals! These political animals only spring to action when they smell Republican blood. When Obama says he doesnt know about something everone believes him.Double Standard Hypocrisy


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